Nourishment is not just what you eat (good nutrition) but how you eat, too. That's where the act of eating intersects the realm of the mind as well as the body, and why it's so important to practice mindful eating in your every day.
Did you know that you're likely to mindlessly dip your hand into the candy dish at work 70% more frequently if the dish is clear than if it's opaque and covered resulting in an extra 77 calories consumed each day without even realizing? It's true! But why is that? And, more importantly, how can we make simple changes to help us be more mindful?
When we know a little bit more about how to take charge of our external and internal environments, we can actually start to really enjoy our food more and feel 'nourished' without feeling stuffed. That's what mindful-or conscious-eating is all about.
By the way, if those 77 calories don't seem like a big deal, consider this: they can actually mean a whopping 5-plus pounds added to the body over the course of the year, unfortunately without even realizing it, leaving you wondering... where did those pounds come from?! Turns out the old saying "out of sight, out of mind" also rings true when it comes to food. We do have a tendency to see food and eat it... and research backs this up. In one study, when Hershey's kisses were in sight and within arm's reach, individuals ate twice as many candies as when they were 6 feet away behind their desk out of sight on a file cabinet. The study participants even ate 30% more if the dish was in arm's reach within eyesight on the desk versus an equal distance out of sight-in a closed desk drawer. Out of sight, out of reach, and thus, out of mind. This is one way that making small decisions about how you set up your environmental space can affect your eating habits. Becoming more mindful and aware of our eating takes some strategy since we're making lots of decisions about food every day.
Researchers have determined that we are making on average well over 200 decisions about food every single day! What's for breakfast? Cereal or donut? Eat lunch in or out? Have salad or sandwich? A few m&ms from my coworkers desk? Again? Again? An afternoon latte or water? A second serving of pasta?
There is pressure all over to overeat-but with some smart strategies and simple, proven shifts you can become a more mindful eater and conscious chewer.
Five Key Strategies to Becoming More Mindful in Your Eating (and avoiding common pitfalls).
1. Set the table. Presentation is powerful!
No matter if you're entertaining or in a hurry, setting the table can help you be more aware of your eating. Set the table and make it lovely. A simple placemat with utensils and even a cloth napkin (which is easy to wash and more eco-friendly) remind us that we're about to sit down to a meal or a snack. Scientists at Cornell University have shown that using smaller and more decorative plates can help you naturally serve yourself (and thus eat) less while still feeling satisfied. Research also shows that using taller, narrower glasses versus wider, shorter glasses leaves us feeling like we've had more. And everything tastes better by candlelight. Whether it's candlelight, dimming the light or adding soothing music, you can use what science has shown to help us create an atmosphere to be more mindful when dining helping us to slow down and 'linger longer'.
Using your smaller dishes and pre-portioning your food will help you eat a more modest amount and naturally stop when the meal is done. Plate the food before bringing it to the table. And if you're going to serve anything family-style, let it be the vegetables and you'll help eliminate the mindless noshing on high-calorie seconds that you didn't want in the first place. Even with snacks, use a plate or bowl. Avoid the temptation to go from bag to hand to mouth with chips, nuts, and crackers. Portion them out and you'll be more successful and mindful. Re-size the bag or box by making snack-sized packs of trail mix and other snack foods, creating what researchers at Cornell have termed "pause points" or natural signals to stop and reevaluate whether you'll have or need more. This can save 100s of calories and near endless guilt.
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