Mind & Body

7 Steps to Mindful Eating

When you pay attention to what's going into your mouth, you eat less.
7 Steps to Mindful Eating
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1. Get Focused. To derive all the physical and emotional benefits available from a meal, you need to be free of distractions. Turn off the television or radio, put away the magazine, and clear the table of clutter. Create an environment that is calm, soothing, and conducive to paying attention.

2. Slowdown. "Make it your intention to be a slow eater," says Marc David, author of The Slow Down Diet. Take an hour for lunch, two hours for dinner. What do you do with all that time? Simply pay attention.

3. Breathe Deep. Take five to 10 long, slow breaths at the start of each meal to center and focus, David advises. Deep breathing cuts stress, induces relaxation, and oxygenates and prepares the digestive system and the brain—a key digestive organ—for yourmeal.

4. Bless The moment. Say a prayer or blessing before you eat to gather your attention. Offering gratitude for your meal can also serve as a reminder of the network of people and natural forces that connects and sustains us.

5. Use All Your Senses. Notice the appearance, texture, and aroma of food before you even put it in your mouth. Then taste it, feeling it on your tongue and against your teeth as you chew, and pay attention to every nuance.

6. Notice Everything. "People often confine mindful eating to their tongue, but it's really the sum of the entire experience," David says. A mindful approach encourages you to notice things without judgment or criticism: How are you holding your fork? What music or conversation can you hear in the background? Is the food triggering any memories or emotions?

7. Expand Your Horizons. To refocus your attention, introduce something new to your mealtime routine. Try eating with chopsticks, testing new recipes or restaurants, or discovering exotic foods and spices at ethnic groceries, suggests Susan Albers, author of Eating Mindfully.