Mindful eating is a great way to enhance any dietary pattern and it allows you to enjoy and appreciate the foods you are already eat. But how hard is it to eat mindfully? To find out, we challenged ourselves to mindfully eat for as little as one meal or up to 24 hours. How did we do? Here is our take on the experience.
Megan Meyer: Mindfulness is something I am definitely trying to practice more of in 2017. Luckily, the IFIC Foundation team developed a quick and easy way for me to practice mindful eating. I tend to roll through my work until lunch, when I am usually ravenous. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to practice mindful eating. Luckily, most days, my coworkers and I eat our lunches together, so at least I had that working in my favor.
The day I tried to practice mindful eating, I started between a 3 and a 4 on the Eat-Moji scale. I was able to slow down and enjoy my food rather than wolfing it all down in five minutes. In this time, I paid more attention to the flavors and textures in my lunch and also appreciated that I had a healthy meal in front of me. Taking the time out of my day to slow down and mindfully experience my lunch led me to feel grateful for what I have, and these feelings stuck with me throughout my work day. You’d better believe I will be taking what I learned from this experience and integrating it more into my daily eating habits as much as possible!
Tamika Sims: I completed my “mindful eating for 24 hours” and I have to say it wasn’t so hard. I typically eat to be “satisfied” or “pleasantly full” on the Eat-Moji scale once I am done. Also, I like planning my meals for the day. This helps me look forward to my meals and get lots of fruits and veggies, as well as the right amount of protein, while limiting my carbs (which is how I like to eat every day). I get excited knowing that I am going to get a good helping of veggies during lunch or if I plan to have dessert after dinner. Balance is key.
What is hard for me is not waiting too long to eat. Oftentimes, when I stop what I am doing to have my meals I am bordering on “hangry,” which is no bueno! I should definitely not wait so long between snacks and meals. Nobody wants a grumbling, unhappy tummy.
Kris Sollid: As a registered dietitian, I do my best to practice what I preach. For me, that means paying close attention to hunger cues and portion sizes. We all know the feeling of being too full. It’s uncomfortable. To reduce overeating, I do my best to take a mindful approach to my meals and snacks. I strive to be satisfied, not full. In other words, I aim for about a 6 on our Mindful Eat-Moji scale.
This past weekend was a good example of this. My wife and I went out for lunch. It was a late lunch. We were absolutely starving. We wanted to eat the place out of house and home. Instead, we paused and pondered a few things. Our conversation when something like this: “OK, calm down. What time is it? 3:30. What time are we planning to eat dinner? 7:30. How much should we eat now so that we are hungry at 7:30? Less than we think.”
We ended up splitting a Reuben. With a pickle. Small coleslaw on the side. It was the perfect amount of food for us both, and dinner was that much more enjoyable because of it.
Laura Kubitz: For my mindful eating challenge, I chose to focus on one meal: lunch on a weekday. I usually eat lunch around 12:45, but that isn’t out of habit. My hunger cues are in full swing by that time. On the Eat-Moji scale, I am at about a 3.5. It’s time for food.
I had leftovers from a slow-cooker chili recipe with some cornbread and a salad. Yum! I set my food down at a table in the office, flipped my phone over, parked myself in a chair and was ready to enjoy my lunch. I noticed the sweet potatoes and spices in the chili. The cornbread was the perfect texture from a light toasting just minutes before. The salad was refreshing and perfectly balanced the meal.
Mindful eating is my new favorite way to enhance my (sometimes) healthy eating pattern. At times I forget to slow down and enjoy my food, but no one is perfect. I intend to use this technique as much as possible in the future.
Kamilah Guiden: This was the first time that I intentionally ate mindfully. I normally don’t eat unless I’m hungry, so luckily I didn’t have to focus on that. I prepared my evening meal for the week—a wedge salad with corn, tomatoes, bacon, and blue cheese—sat down, turned the TV off, and slowly began eating. I had had the salad earlier in the week, so I already knew I would enjoy it. But it was nice focusing on the small details such as the texture of the corn compared to the bacon, as well as the juxtaposition of the zesty salad dressing with the tang of the blue cheese.
The hardest thing about mindfully eating was turning off my television. I’m used to having it on; it provides me with some sort of noise, because I don’t like complete silence. To get rid of that anxiety, I turned on some calming music. Outside of that, the experience was pretty enjoyable. I can’t say that I will have time to mindfully eat during every meal, but I will try to do it a couple of times a week. It’s always nice to give some time to yourself to just enjoy everything your food has to offer.
Liz Sanders: I decided to try a mindful lunch a couple of days ago. By the time my lunch break rolled around, I was already starving. Usually enjoying all the tastes, textures and aromas of my food comes pretty easily to me. But not when I’m certifiably “hangry.” It was so hard to slow down and enjoy my food when I needed to fill my belly, stat! This was a good reminder of the importance of intuitive eating, which is the process of listening to internal cues to know when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to stop eating. I ignored my hunger cues and paid the price for it.
Next time, I won’t wait until I’m at -32 on the hunger scale before sitting down for a meal.
For more resources on mindful eating, visit our mindful eating resource page.