While adding a few pounds during the winter season may have been a useful strategy for our ancestors stuck out in the cold, it’s usually less welcome among modern humans. This year, rather than trying one of those ready-made (and, let’s be honest, undesirable) diets, consider mindful eating instead. Championed by Darya Rose, neuroscientist, food writer, and creator of the award-winning blog Summer Tomato, mindful eating can assuage the winter-weight-gain worries without forcing you to prescribe to a particular dietary regimen.
So how can you eat mindfully? Essentially, it means doing what any mindful activity involves: paying attention to what you are doing when you are doing it. Here are some simple tips adapted from Darya’s book, Foodist:Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting, on how you can s-l-o-w down and eat mindfully:
Chew more, and pay attention to it
To get started, try selecting a set number of chews over twenty. While you’re chewing (slowly and strategically), pay attention to the flavor and texture of your food.
Go eat somewhere else
It’s hard to eat mindfully if there are tons of distractions around you, so get away from your desk, computer, phone, and anything else that might take you out of the present moment. Also, sitting at a table signals to your brain that you are eating a meal, and you will be less tempted later to act as if you haven’t eaten.
Take breaks between bites
In order to slow down, take mini-breaks between bites, so you’re not mindlessly plowing food into your mouth. Try taking sips of water or putting your fork down between bites to separate them out and give yourself a chance to feel full.
Set the mood
The more relaxed you feel while eating, the more mindful you will be. Darya suggests you dim the lights and play mellow music to help yourself slow down and focus on the sensory experience of eating.
Eat with a friend (or acquaintance, family member, or stranger who may become a new friend)
Worried that dinner parties will distract you from your food and cause you to mindlessly grab the chocolates? Don’t be–talking helps extend the eating process, indirectly causing you to take breaks between bites. In addition, the slower pace of consumption will allow you to feel when you are actually becoming full.
Practicing mindfulness will also help you to become more in-tune with your body overall, so you’ll be able to detect hunger before it’s too late. Waiting until your blood sugar is too low weakens your willpower and impairs your self-control, often causing you to make unhealthy food choices. So open wide, say “Om”, and remember to chew.