Do you remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday? Chances are you don’t, or if you do, it probably took a bit of thought. How is it that eating can be such a major part of our lives, yet, most of the time, the foods we consume daily are much less memorable?

Mindful eating

When was the last time you really paid attention to your meal or snack? In the rush of life we hardly have time to “stop and smell the roses.” Give this little exercise a try: put a small piece of a food you enjoy on a plate or napkin in front of you. Resist the temptation to eat it right away. First, just look at it. What does it look like? Does it look appetizing? Make a mental note of its shape, size and texture. Now, pick it up in your hand. What texture does it have? Is it smooth, sticky, bumpy? After this, take a good smell of the food. Does it smell sweet, savoury, tangy? Finally, put the piece of food in your mouth. Let it melt, or chew slowly. Pay attention to how it feels on your tongue and where you taste it in your mouth. If you’ve done the exercise properly, you’ll notice how paying attention to your senses magnifies the experience of eating.

This may seem like common sense, but most of us continue shoving food mindlessly in our faces when we’re hungry. To fully enjoy the foods we eat, we must first be aware of how we’re sensing them. Otherwise, we forget how they tasted the first time and reach for more. This can be destructive, especially if you’re trying to watch your weight.

Portion sizes

At the last family reunion you attended, were you thinking about how many scoops of potato salad you piled on your plate, or did you load them up like Mount Everest? One of the problems with mindless eating is that it prevents us from exercising proper portion control. How much do you really need? A serving of meat should be about the size of your palm. Carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables, rice, pasta and breads should be limited to the size of your fist. Vegetables are great because you can eat almost as much as you want! A meal-sized portion size of vegetables is comparable to your two hands cupped together, but overindulging on veggies isn’t likely to inflict much damage to your figure.

Are you even hungry?

This, too, seems like a no-brainer. But the truth is that it’s hard to determine whether you’re actually in need of sustenance or if you’re just bored, lonely or angry. Emotions serve as one reason for overeating, so being mindful about what your body is trying to tell you can be an enormous help with weight loss. If you really are hungry, eat of course! But if you find that you’re only trying to console yourself for whatever reason, be aware of that. You’ll find that in about ten minutes, the “hunger” you felt miraculously disappears.

But “Desperate Housewives” is on!

Eating in front of the television is enjoyable once in a while. However, if you make a habit of it, you risk overeating on a regular basis. When our attention is held by something we deem important (like a new episode of “House,” for example), we have little mental capacity left to devote to what and how much we’re putting in our mouths. Hence, fork-to-face motions become almost automatic. If you’ve ever demolished a full bag of potato chips in one sitting while watching the tube, you’ll know what I mean. Limit this habit, or forbid yourself to eat while the television is on.

What is that?

Eating out or ordering take-out is sometimes necessary. You don’t always have time to prepare dinner when life is so busy all of the time. When you do eat out, how thoughtful are you about what exactly you’re putting into your body? Do you know what the fast food burger you’re eating is made of? Meat, I would hope, but what about the other additives and ingredients restaurants use to achieve that familiar taste? If it’s possible, take a look at the restaurant’s nutrition guide before ordering. Choose grilled lean meats over fried processed entrées, and consider salads instead of greasy fries. When in doubt, order something you think you’d be able to make yourself at home. And don’t be afraid to ask the server or cashier exactly what is in the meal (it’s your body after all!). If they can’t answer, it’s probably not a good sign.

Considering that our bodies are the only ones we’ll ever have, it’s important to be aware of how we treat them. With this in mind, we can be more conscious of our eating habits and how they’re affecting our health and wellness goals. Don’t become a victim to mindless eating. Only you can control your mind and your health!

image: Mikael Altemark (Creative Commons – BY)