It’s difficult to be mindful on a regular basis. We’re constantly bombarded with messages that we need (or need more of, or a better) this or that to make our lives more complete, happier, better, blah blah blah… We are super busy. We have a perpetual “To Do” list, no matter how many items we complete. We have 100 things running through our heads at any given moment. We rarely take a breather because we need to keep up with social media, our friends, the news, pop culture, our calendars, and on it goes.
As a food addict, it has taken decades of regular practice to be more mindful of what I eat and how I’m feeling about what and how much I have eaten. The challenge is shutting out all the extraneous stuff and really focusing on what I’m eating. Of course, I don’t want to just sit and stare around while I eat, so I usually read at the same time, which is entertaining, but certainly a distraction from what I put into my mouth. So I’ve worked really hard to be more aware while I eat, whether it’s a sit-down meal or a standing snack.
Paying attention is very important for a few reasons. First, the point of eating, obviously, is to nourish our bodies. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy what I eat. In fact, enjoying food actually results in eating less. Think about it: How many times have you eaten something that was mediocre, only to find yourself searching for something else to eat to feel satisfied? If I’m not satisfied with what I’m eating, I’m better off ditching it, when possible, and finding something else, keeping in mind whether it is *Really* Worth It. Being stuck with it is an even more important reason for paying attention, to fill up just enough to not be hungry and leave the rest.
Another reason to pay attention is because it’s easy to eat a lot more if I’m not thinking about what’s going into my mouth. Before I know it, I’ll have eaten so much, I can’t even begin to know how many servings it was unless I finished off the package. There have been times that I’ve eaten something directly out of a new bag or container, only to weigh it to see just how much I ate, (I guess to add insult to injury). It just makes me feel guilty and, often times, stuffed because I didn’t give my gut time to send full signals to my brain.
Mindfulness when eating is because good less is actually more. One study I referenced in The Feeding Season found that we’re satisfied with a just a few bites of something. By paying attention to what we’re eating, especially snacks and dessert, it’s possible to eat a lot less yet still feel content.
It wasn’t until after I stopped tracking calories and logging food that I really became cognizant of how important it is to eat mindfully. My eating habits were so structured by what I was “allowed” to have in any given day that I rarely considered whether I really wanted that allocation or not. For years, to reform my behavior, it was absolutely necessary to have a plan. But what I was finally able to appreciate, after moving to the low-carbohydrate regimen and not feeling starving hungry all the time, was that I could maintain a healthy weight because of the good habits I’d established.