No matter how busy you are at the office or at home, and whether you’re eating a personally packed meal or one bought from the nearest fast food chain, you need to take the time to enjoy every bite you’re taking. This healthy (but often neglected) habit is known as mindful eating. It pertains to the practice of savoring every morsel of food you put in your mouth.
Mindful eating offers several advantages. These include weight loss, lower binge eating and overeating tendencies, and giving you an overall feeling of wellness.
A Guide to Mindful Eating
If you want to enjoy your meals every day even if you have a hectic schedule, you can do so by following the steps below:
1. Plan ahead
Whether you’ll be bringing a packed lunch or ordering takeout, you can always have something to look forward to during your break when you already know what you’ll be eating. When you’re excited about your meal, you will more likely find the time to savor your lunch, and thus practice some mindful eating.
Planning your meals for the week can ensure that you’ll have something healthy for lunch that you will also enjoy eating. But if you’re too busy to make a weekly meal plan, you can think about what you’ll be having for lunch the night before or early in the morning.
Aside from having an additional reward to look forward to during mid-day, you can save time on deciding what to eat for lunch – something that may take you several minutes to do. With the extra time, you’ll get to enjoy your meal more.
2. Be adventurous with your food options
Variety is the spice of life. This also holds true for the foods you eat. You will more likely devote more time to enjoying your meals if you’re not eating the same thing over and over again. Daily or weekly planning can help you greatly in adding “spice” to your daily meals.
3. Drink plenty of water or eat light snacks in between meals
To fully enjoy your lunch in spite of your hectic schedule, munch on something light before your break and constantly hydrate yourself. Don’t eat when you’re starving since nothing can make you eat faster and forget to enjoy your meal more than being famished.
Snack on raw vegetables and fruits, nuts or a cup of low-fat yogurt before lunchtime so that you won’t feel too starved and rush through the motions of eating.
4. Set an official schedule for your lunch break
Just barely squeezing your lunch break into your schedule every day is an unhealthy habit that you need to stop doing. You won’t be able to savor the complete eating experience when you always scarf down your food quickly so that you can go back to your work.
If you set an official 30-minute lunch break, you can make sure you have at least 20 minutes to eat and, more importantly, savor your food.
5. Use special plates and cutlery
If you want to make sure every meal you have in the office is enjoyable, treat it as a special occasion. This means using a nice plate and some elegant silverware. When you use the finest tableware, you’ll be more likely to treat the meal as something you don’t want to rush through.
6. Sit down and eat at a dining table
It isn’t unusual for busy employees to eat in front of their computers like this: They type something with their right hand and hold a sandwich with their left one. They will also leave their food to answer a phone call or do something they suddenly remembered they have to do.
If you’re guilty of these bad habits, then you’re certainly not enjoying your meal, no matter how well-prepared and tasty it is.
To fully enjoy your meal, prepare your spread and sit at a dining table. If there isn’t one and your desk is your only option, turn your computer off and make sure you stick to your scheduled lunch break (this means no interruptions). Also, put food in your mouth only if you’re sitting down so that you can truly focus on and savor what you’re eating.
7. Chew properly
Once you’re already eating, take smaller bites and chew your food thoroughly. By doing so, you will be aware of the texture and taste of what you are eating, and you will appreciate your meal even more.
According to Livestrong.com [http://www.livestrong.com/article/450220-what-are-the-benefits-of-chewing-food-properly/], there isn’t any recommended number of bites you should take before swallowing your food. However, it is best to swallow your food only when you can no longer discern exactly what you just ate by the texture remaining in your mouth.
This practice will help prevent overeating and improve digestion so that your body wastes less energy breaking down food.
8. Immerse yourself in your meal
Aside from chewing properly, you can thoroughly enjoy your meal by analyzing and appreciating every ingredient. Discern which spices are used and admire the colors and aroma of the dish. The longer you analyze each ingredient and combination, the more time you’ll spend eating and savoring your meal.
9. Put down your utensils now and then
When you put your utensils down between bites, you relax a bit and focus on chewing what’s already in your mouth. If you don’t do this, your hands go into an automatic shoveling mode; you prep your utensils for the next bite instantly after just popping the last one in your mouth. This will cause you to eat fast and, of course, forget about mindful eating.
10. Take frequent sips of water
You can also slow down your eating by constantly sipping your drink throughout your meal. By doing so, you also put your utensils down and chew and swallow more before putting another bite in your mouth. Water is still the best accompaniment to any meal, but if you’re having dinner, sipping wine can also effectively slow down your meal.
Once you’re done eating, drink some more water. It will help you feel full longer and give you the hydration and fuel you need to get back to your busy schedule.
A useful (and final) tip you should always remember about mindful eating is to practice moderation. Certainly, you will have no problem enjoying your food even when busy if you’ll be having your favorite dishes for lunch. However, if you keep giving in to your temptations, you may end up overindulging or overeating every meal – something that won’t do anything good to your weight and health.
The best way for you to “have your cake and eat it” is to indulge in your favorite (probably high-calorie) foods in moderation. This means enjoying a slice of pizza just once a week for lunch, for example. Keep in mind that if you do not deny yourself and you’re conscious of what’s good for your body, you’ll always have an easier time enjoying what you’re eating.