Some people call it mindful eating. While that’s a good term, I like to think of it as “getting the most pleasure possible” out of what I’m eating. That makes me feel like I’m getting a real treat, and taking steps to squeeze out the most pleasure that I can is more motivating than creating rules for myself about what I can or cannot do when I eat.
By far, staying present while I eat, or mindful eating, is the eating habit that I have to work on, especially when I’m extra busy, stressed, excited, or with other people.
These strategies are simple and subtle. They always help me remember to focus on my food and take the most pleasure that I can.
Here’s 11 ways to enjoy your food more…
Chewing food 20 times or so is a definite way to draw out the pleasure. This seriously slows me down. If I’m in a rush, it reminds me to not hurry through eating because I’ll miss out on the experience.
Normally a human vacuum that inhales food, this is a habit I have to think about and make a game out of. However, by chewing, I can notice the favors of the food. I can identify the ingredients. I can notice the texture and temperature. All of this really adds to me feeling complete and satisfied… whether if I’m delighting in a treat or eating the same breakfast I had the last 7 days in a row.
Chewing also helps to slow you down if you’re with others so you’re not the first to finish your food. That way, you not tempted to get more only because everyone else is still eating.
2. Switch hands.
Making things more difficult is a great way to force yourself to pay attention to what you’re doing. One simple way to do this is to force yourself to eat with your non-dominant hand. You can start by doing this with smaller meals. It’s also a good tip to try when you’re eating with others and want to stay focused on eating so you don’t mindlessly eat only because the other person is eating.
3. Eat with chopsticks.
Like switching hands, this makes things slightly more challenging. Plus, you can only have so much in one bite.
When I use chopsticks, I focus more on picking out bites. Like if I’m eating a stir fry, I’ll pick out the peppers, then the onions, then the mushrooms, etc. This gets me to enjoy each part.
Eating with chopsticks gets real tricky if you’re eating a sandwich.
I read a story about a tech company that asked a bunch of their employees to use chopsticks exclusively for a week as a mindfulness exercise. Although weight loss was not the goal, everyone in the office lost weight and several reported life changing realizations as a result of the project.
4. Put your fork down between each bite.
Putting your fork down between bites of food is an excellent complement to the chewing habit. The act of setting your fork down forces you to focus on chewing your food rather than letting yourself mindlessly pick at your plate for your next bite. It also encourages you to slow down and attend more to the taste of your food, instead of just shoveling it down your throat as quickly as possible.
5. Close your eyes.
Whether its just for the first few bites or the whole meal, close your eyes as you chew. Now you can really focus on the flavors, the ingredients and how they interact, and the texture as it changes. In a world of distraction, closing your eyes gives you control over your experience.
6. Identify every ingredient.
Like a chef or professional taste tester, it can be fun to identify every flavor and what you’re eating. If its strawberry ice cream, can you taste the strawberries? What about the milk or cream? If its a marinated steak, can you distinguish the ingredients in the marinade? Is it tangy, peppery or savory?
7. Put your food on a plate.
I am guilty of eating from the container or bag often when I’m alone. Getting out plates seems unnecessary. However, putting food out on a plate instead of eating from the bag helps me to be aware of what I’m eating and feel more satisfied with a smaller amount. If I finish my plate, that’s one thing. But if I finish the whole container, that might be double the amount of food.
8. Sit down.
Like eating from the container, I often like to stand up while I eat because I’m in a rush, or sitting down seems unnecessary. Honestly, what’s so important in my life that I don’t have time to take 15 minutes to stop and nourish myself? Sitting down tells our mind to focus on the activity instead of thinking about bolting off to the next one.
9. Make a big deal out of it.
If you’re sitting down and eating on a plate, giving yourself the food you want the most, why not celebrate that? You could die tomorrow and you would’ve missed the opportunity to really get the most pleasure from your life! Seriously, though, if you’re eating, you’re giving your body energy to be alive. If you didn’t eat, eventually you would lose energy and die. The reason you get to be alive and active in your life is from taking care of your body… and what a fun way to do so.
Get out the nice china. Get the fancy fork. Make the table setting. Light a candle. This is especially important if you’re indulging in something you’re really looking forward to.
10. Get quiet.
Turn off the television, computer and other distractions to eat in a quiet manner. Like closing your eyes, it helps to eliminate distractions. You can hear the voice in your head more easily, and you can guide it to focus on the flavors in your mouth.
11. Be thankful.
Consider what it took to get the food to you to eat. Not only was it the sun and rain nurturing the vegetables, fruits, grains and animals, but the labor that goes into harvesting, processing, packaging, shipping, delivering, stocking and offering or serving you your food. It’s a big deal. It’s no small feat to get that amount of food to people around the world every day.