How we eat is just as important as what we eat. For many Americans, eating goes hand in hand with watching TV or working. We are habitual multitaskers. Valuing efficiency, we eat while we check emails or fill out spreadsheets. Because we do this, we become so distracted and we fail to focus on the food in front of us. Each bite barely registers in our awareness, and before we know it our meal is gone. We are a nation of mindless eaters.
Mindless eating persists in our offices, and this poor eating habit is a significant barrier to a healthy lifestyle. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that being distracted while eating led to greater food intake. And researchers in Japan found a clear connection between mindless eating and the development of metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. We must strive to eat more mindfully. Mindful eating involves taking small bites and chewing thoroughly. It calls for relishing taste and texture, savoring smell and sound.
The first step to mindful eating is to stop multitasking. Set aside ample time to eat a proper meal. Sit at a table, and ban all electronics from it. If you seek entertainment, share your table with a coworker. Having a meaningful conversation is more stimulating than staring at a screen. If you still find yourself eating too fast, try eating with your non-dominant hand, or use chopsticks. Employ any strategy that facilitates eating slowly.
Mindful eating isn’t a diet. It’s an invitation to enjoy food more intensely. If practiced correctly, meals become meditations, nourishing body and mind. Anyone can cultivate this mindful eating habit through practice. But like anything worth having, it takes patience and perseverance. So set small, manageable goals and meet them. This will give you confidence and encourage you to make more positive changes. Perhaps devote thirty minutes each day to mindful eating.
This concept merging mouth and mind follows from the broader practice of mindfulness. To be mindful is to be fully present in each moment. We often dwell on the past or look to the future with anxiety. But the purpose of mindfulness is to look around in awareness, to savor the bloom of the present moment, to slow down so we can experience life more fully. We can apply this practice to our daily living. That’s the ultimate goal of mindful eating — mindful living. Mindfulness is a latent ability in all of us, and we can use its transformative power to make our lives more rich and enjoyable. It’s hard to imagine obesity in a nation of mindful eaters. A mindful lunch is where it starts. So take a mindful bite.