When it comes to examining our relationships with food and eating, being in the driver's seat, rather than allowing your emotions, environment, or other factors to dictate what or how much you eat, is the goal. And one thing we know for sure helps with this? Slowing down and being more mindful.
Nutritionist and brand new author of The Food Therapist, Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD, sat down with Domino to give us some quick, easy tips to eating more mindfully.
“At this point, telling people to eat more mindfully is kind of an eye roll,” says Lenchewski. “People know we should be eating more mindfully; we know we should be doing everything more mindfully. So, I think that one of the things I’ve done is think of things to help wrangle the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that helps you make thoughtful decisions—ways that do not include sitting there meditating for five minutes because that’s not realistic.”
But, wait, backup, why should you eat more mindfully?
“Most of my clients come to me, they more or less know what to do (eat less sugar, eat more thoughtfully, portion control, make better decisions on the fly), but the issue is they’re not doing those things,” says Lenchewski. “So the crux of our work plays out more like a food therapy session. Getting to the bottom of the ‘why.’ It’s never for the reason they fear—that they don’t have willpower or the ability—it’s that it’s complicated, and we’re all stressed and distracted, so it makes it really difficult to make thoughtful choices on the fly.”
There are a handful of easy, simple tips to incorporate into your daily life to help you be more purposeful when eating. Lenchewski has worked on practical ways to tune in to the full experience of eating.
1. Eat with your non-dominant hand.
“It actually forces you to focus on eating and slow down, without having to really think about it. It forces you to pay more attention to eating while you’re eating.”
Also, put down the fork between bites; it lets you continually reassess your hunger.
2. Eat with your hands.
Engaging with more of your senses helps you focus on the moment. And using that tactile sensation helps you be more aware. Try eating something with your hands that you’d normally eat with utensils. “Even, chicken (maybe not while at a restaurant) but eating chicken at home and feeling it, and noticing the textures and sensations,” says Lenchewski.
3. Put food on a plate.
This one seems so obvious, but how often do you actually plate and make a presentation with your meals?
“Most of us go all editorial when making food for someone we care about or it’s for Instagram,” says Lenchewski. “But when it comes to most of us [alone], we’re eating over a sink, hurriedly. There is a lot of research on this about forming meal memories, and if you don’t pay attention to what you're eating when you’re eating, you don’t form those memories, and then we’re hungry five minutes later."
“By putting it on a plate, and enjoying it, it makes it feel real and more substantial, a back-to-basics approach.
“Sure, there will be times when you will have to eat in front of a computer, and part of it is knowing that you may be hungrier sooner, not because you physically hungrier, but because it just didn’t totally register. When you can, do your best to put it on a plate.”
In honor of this very simple, easily integrated concept, we’ve assembled our favorite plates, inspiring us to put some food on them, slow down and enjoy the moment.