Is “Just Eat Mindfully” really helpful advice?


If I am guessing correctly the following advice may cause you to roll your eyes or maybe just feel very annoying.

Just eat mindfully.

Eat intuitively.

Take a deep breath before you meal.

Chew your food bites 15 times before swallowing.

I get it though. In between chasing kids around the house, at your desk for lunch during a stressful day at work, or on the go grabbing food wherever you can, this advice just doesn’t cut it.

Though this advice is not made up out of thin air and often IS given with good intention.

Improving mindfulness in general has shown to have a positive impact on helping control impulse, improve willpower, and is beneficial in trying to make positive habit change.

The book The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal says, “Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to mediate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control and self awareness.”

Expert nutrition company Precision Nutrition sites the benefits of slow eating.

“The benefits of slow eating include better digestion, better hydration, easier weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with our meals. Meanwhile, eating quickly leads to poor digestion, increased weight gain, and lower satisfaction. The message is clear: Slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and well-being.

When you eat slowly, you digest better. You lose or maintain weight more easily. Yet you also feel more satisfied with each meal.”

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All these methods have merit, and I don’t doubt that they are effective, but the more important question is:

How can you make it work for you, given your circumstances.

Just yesterday I inhaled a bowl of pasta the second I put my newborn down for a nap. So much for mindful eating.

So instead of going to extremes and stressing yourself out with counting bites of food or thinking about it just a little too hard, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • If you have to eat fast, wait before going back for seconds or eating more. It might not be ideal but giving yourself some time after a meal is the next best alternative to eating slower.
  • Practice when you can. If you do find an opportunity to eat slow, practice. Take a bite and wait a few minutes. Whether you are eating a banana, a protein bar, or a cookie, or dinner see how slow you can consume the food.
  • Simply be aware of how fast you eat without forcing yourself to change. Awareness is a huge step and often underrated when it comes to creating new habits. Note how fast you eat and when. Note how it makes you feel. Don’t try to change it all at once. Once you identify a pattern it will be in the forefront of your mind and then you can decide how important the change is to you.
  • Start small. Try to eat the first few bites of your meal slowly. Then the next time try to eat half your meal slowly. So what if you devour the rest of your meal, you are making small improvements and they will add up.

I hope you feel this is practical advice you can implement into your life. Advice only works if you can apply it and often implementing is most of the battle.

To think that we can overhaul our whole life and deeply ingrained habits in one sitting is unrealistic and often takes us one step forward and then three steps back. Take well intended advice and break it down into ways that work for you and don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

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