Mindful eating means being conscious of what you eat, how you eat, and why you eat.
In today’s article, I’ll explore all three of these factors and share some of my favorite tips related to each one.
1. Watch What You Eat
Mindful eating starts with making healthy choices when you shop for groceries and go out to eat.
Eat a Protein-Rich Diet
Design your nutrition plan around lean meats and other natural high-protein foods, along with plant-based foods that are low in starch and simple carbohydrates. Starch and simple carbohydrates convert to sugar in your bloodstream, which then gets stored as fat.
Tip: When you eat fruits, vegetables and other carbohydrates, select items that are high in fiber. High-fiber foods are more nutrient-dense than starches and simple carbohydrates, are more filling and satisfying, and digest more slowly so you avoid the sugar spike after eating them.
A few of my favorite high-fiber carbohydrates that I recommend to my patients include spinach and other dark leafy greens, brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, lentils, and black beans.
Avoid Sugary Foods & Drinks
As we saw in the section above, excess sugar gets stored as fat in our bodies. The sugar epidemic is a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. Plus, increased sugar intake is directly linked to inflammation, higher blood pressure, diabetes, and fatty liver disease.
Tip: When you crave something sweet to eat, favor natural sweets. Berries are one of my favorites, and also provide fiber and other important nutrients. You’ll find delicious examples in our desserts recipes.
Watch Your Portion Sizes Closely
Increased portion sizes are another key contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. Several studies have shown that many average portion sizes have doubled in the past forty years. In fact, fast food restaurant portions increased 226% from 1986–2016. Larger portion sizes have led many of us to eat bigger bites, overindulge, and lose touch with our natural internal fullness cues.
Tip: Two ways to help give your body a portion size “reset” are to use a food scale and keep a food journal. In fact, these are two of the first things I ask new patients to do when they join my 12-week weight release program.
Your food scale will help you eat the right size portions and maintain an optimal balance of protein and carbohydrates. Your food journal will help you keep track of when you eat, what you eat, how much you eat, and how you feel afterward.
Stay Hydrated & Watch What You Drink
Hydration is an important and often underestimated key to weight loss. In general, I recommend that patients in my weight loss programs drink 128 oz of liquid throughout each day. Water should be at least 64 oz of the total. The other 64 oz can be water or other fluids.
Avoid caffeine, which has a dehydrating effect, as well as soda and other beverages that are loaded with sugar and other artificial flavors and sweeteners. Avoid alcohol, which is high in sugar and also lowers impulse control which can make it harder to resist other unhealthy temptations.
Tip: Infuse your water with fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Flavoring your water can make it more appealing so you stay hydrated throughout the day, and also help you avoid sugary drinks. For example; lemon, cucumber, mint, rosemary, and other natural ingredients are ideal for infusing into water. Add what you like to a pitcher of water, let it sit for a few hours and you’ll have infused water to enjoy.
2. Be Conscious of How You Eat
Mindful eating also includes paying attention to how you eat, and cultivating healthy habits at meal time and snack time.
Tip: Eat in as calm of an environment as possible. Don’t eat in front of the TV, and whenever possible don’t eat on the run in your car or while working. Eating in a calm, quiet and focused environment will help you enjoy your food and listen to your body to know when you’re full.
Savor & Enjoy Your Food
Good food is a blessing that should be enjoyed from start to finish. This includes making nutritious and delicious choices when shopping for food, taking your time to prepare meals, observing a moment of gratitude before eating, and savoring your food while you eat.
Tip: Chew your food slowly and thoroughly. You’ll enjoy each bite to the fullest while receiving the maximum nutritional benefits for your food. You’ll also improve your digestion, and give your body time to know when you’re full before accidentally overeating.
3. Notice Why You Eat
Finally, pay close attention to the reasons why you eat.
Avoid Emotional Eating
Observe the real reasons you’re eating. For example, are you eating because it’s mealtime and you’re hungry? Or are you eating out of boredom or habit? Watch out for stress eating and other forms of emotional eating as well.
Tip: If you’re bored or stressed and tempted to eat but it isn’t mealtime, go for a nice walk or enjoy another form of gentle exercise. For an extra pick-me-up, sip your favorite infused water along the way. Just moving your body can help you shake off the stress, and it’s a healthy way to pass the time before your next meal.
Be Careful of Events & Social Pressures
Watch out for social settings like parties and family gatherings. Temptations abound at these kinds of events, and you might also feel certain social pressures or expectations to eat.
Tip: Eat before arriving at parties, making sure to include some protein. This will help you stay satisfied longer and resist tempting treats. If appropriate, bring a healthy dish to share. See many more of my favorite tips for events and holidays.
Don’t Be Afraid of Leftovers
Sometimes, patients will eat more than they planned because they prepared too much food and didn’t want to waste it. It’s important to avoid waste, but it shouldn’t happen at the expense of our health goals.
Tip: Chose foods and prepare meals that make great leftovers. This will help you avoid eating too much just to avoid throwing food away, and will save you time on food prep later in the week. When you go out to eat, don’t be afraid to ask for a to-go container.
Great nutrition is the foundation of healthy, sustainable weight loss, and eating mindfully is one essential part of nutrition. I hope these tips for mindful eating help you reach your weight loss goals and enjoy the journey.