In our modern-day world, drive-thru servers become our friends, the Starbucks barista knows our order, and we can’t recall what we had for lunch.
We eat while we work. We eat while we watch TV. We eat while we (eek!) drive. We eat in ways that elicit stress, frenzy, and a complete disconnect with the bodies we are unsuccessfully trying to nourish.
“When we are out of touch with our eating, and with our bodies, it is easy to overeat and for weight to creep upwards,” says Jenny Conviser, Psy.D., co-owner of Insight Psychological Centers and a leading expert in the treatment of eating disorders. “Some of the strategies we use in working with patients who struggle with binge eating disorder, can be useful to everyone who wants to establish mindful eating patterns.”
Carve out time for meals. Don’t get a lunch break? Fight for one, even if it’s fifteen minutes. Research suggests that our brains don’t even fully register the things we’re eating outside of time we’ve set aside for eating (thus, we stay hungry), though our waistlines do.
Eat sitting down. If you’re going to eat at the refrigerator, pull up a chair! If you commit to eating only while sitting down (at a table no less!), you’re less likely to mindlessly munch. And eat without distractions, like the TV or computer, so you can fully experience what you are eating.
Learn what “hungry” feels like. Ask yourself if you really are hungry before you eat, or are you eating due to the time of day, habit, or to cope with stress. If you are hungry, allow yourself to eat and plan for healthy snacks during your day. Driving yourself to extreme hunger by skipping meals or not allowing yourself to snack can result in unhealthy binges.
Notice each sensation. Next time you sit down to eat something, take a moment to notice the shape, the color, the size. Bring the food to your nose and inhale the aroma. When you take a bite, notice how the texture feels on your tongue, and chew fully before swallowing. Take a moment before taking another bite. Sure, this takes a few extra minutes, but you get to experience food as it’s meant to be — a full sensory experience.
Check in with yourself. Try stopping for a break midway through your meal for a few minutes. Are you still really hungry? If so, keep eating, and check in again after a few more bites. If not, maybe it’s time to stop and put away the rest for later.
Mindless eating patterns can lead to digestive problems, nutrient deficiencies, and weight gain. “Eating on the fly might save us a few minutes here and there, but there is a huge cost to doing many things without thinking and eating is one of them,” adds Dr. Conviser. “When you change your mind, you can change your life.”
Insight Psychological Centers specializes in helping people with issues surrounding food, weight, and mood. With locations in Northbrook, Evanston, Willowbrook and Downtown Chicago, Insight offers a comprehensive program for binge eating, weight management, anorexia, bulimia and general psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. Visit insightforeating.com or call 312-540-9955.