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Research suggests that mindful eating—a nonjudgmental awareness of the complete experience of eating — can contribute to weight loss, a decline in negative emotions, and a healthier relationship with food. It can also help you find a deeper connection to the foods you eat, nourishing you in ways you may never have experienced before.
Eating healthy can become both easier and more enjoyable because you are finally in sync with your body. To get to know how your body really reacts to food, you first need to listen mindfully. It might involve paying attention to the entire timeline of eating: where your food comes from, how it is prepared, and how it is digested. And it might involve paying attention to the dynamic process of eating—for example, what changes occur in your body when you eat a particular food, a particular amount of food, or a food prepared in a particular way.
By honing this type of awareness, you can discover how different foods impact your body, mind, and day-to-day experiences. You might discover that a certain food always makes you groggy and that another food energizes you. If you are able to fully embrace mindful eating—becoming aware and accepting of your relationship with food—it can become a superpower.
Try these seven strategies to learn how to listen to your body. Shira Lenchewski, a registered dietitian and author of the new book The Food Therapistsuggests that there are five dysfunctional habits that many of us have around food. We may have just one of them or we may have them all. These food habits are:. By becoming aware of your food habits, you can better explore the reasons behind them and put in place strategies to change them.
Or if you fear the mundane, you could get a new cookbook and learn some fun, creative ways to cook healthy meals. Your smartphone makes it harder to pay attention to others; your workplace stress makes it harder to pay attention to your family; and it turns out that craving addictive foods I really need to eat some your attentiontoo.
What you miss out on are important als from your body. Food addictions—especially to sugar, caffeine, and alcohol but sometimes also to dairy, carbs, and chocolate—can scream louder than true hunger, nutrient deficiencies, and food intolerances. Once you remove addictive foods, you might start to crave things you never expected. For example, when I cut out all addictive foods, I noticed an intense craving for cantaloupe, spinach, and avocado foods all high in potassium. Being able to identify which foods my body really needed and then eating them created a truly amazing experience—the cantaloupe even gave me goosebumps!
Stress makes all of your digestive processes go haywireleading your body to react poorly to everything. To calm the body before each meal, take a few deep breaths. To create calm specifically around food, it can also be helpful to periodically do short, food-focused mindful meditations. When you sit down with your food, Dr. For example, your mouth hunger might want something crunchy, or your mind hunger might need some vegetables. When you really experience and begin to understand all of your hungers, you can finally learn how to satisfy them. Ask yourself questions to more fully experience the meal.
For example, ask yourself: Is it warm or cold? Is it savory or sweet? Is it crunchy or soft? Explore even further by trying to identify the exact flavors. Ask yourself: What herbs or spices are in this food? Does the food have any added sugar or salt? What other ingredients are in the food? Next, explore the food emotionally. By tuning in to the effects of different foods on our emotions, we may start to see ways we use food to regulate and generate certain emotions.
So ask yourself: Does eating this food evoke any emotions—for example, happiness, calm, excitement, contentment, anxiety, anger, sadness, loneliness, shame, or guilt? If so, dig a little deeper and see if you can figure out why. Pay attention to things like tummy rumbling, sweating, tiredness, nasal congestion, tingling, goosebumps, or any other bodily sensations.
Next, check in on your stomach hunger. Ask yourself: Is your stomach feeling full?
Does your body want to keep eating? Or are you still trying to satisfy other types of hunger? There are no right or wrong answers. Start by asking yourself if each of the eight types of hunger eye, nose, ear, mouth, stomach, mind, emotional, and cellular have been satisfied. Make a mental note or scribble on a piece of paper the hungers that were not satisfied by this meal. Spend an extra few minutes reflecting on each of the hungers that were not satisfied. Ask your body what it would need to satisfy each hunger. And as you gather these insights, it becomes easier to eat in ways that are more satisfying and filling.
Listening to how your body reacts to food requires some effort—namely, a willingness to be aware, open, and accepting. With that in mind, practice mindful eating when you can and see if you can take just one insight from each mindful meal. Tchiki Davis, M.
Davis draws on her experiences building well-being products and interventions in Silicon Valley to deliver innovative ideas for increasing personal well-being. To learn more about how Tchiki can help you measure and improve well-being, please visit her at berkeleywellbeing. Become a subscribing member today.
Scroll To Top Do you want to create a better relationship with food? Get the science of a meaningful life delivered to your inbox. About the Author. Tchiki Davis Tchiki Davis, M. This article — and everything on this site — is funded by readers like you. Give Now.I really need to eat some
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When You're Craving a Food, Maybe You Need to Just Eat It