06/04/2015 04:45 EDT | Updated 06/04/2016 05:59 EDT

Got the Mindless Munchies? Three Tips for Mindful Eating Practice


Do you ever notice that you eat the same thing day in and day out, without really paying attention to how or why you are eating? Have you ever found your fingers at the bottom of a chip bag and wondered where they went? Or maybe your holiday dinner has left you feeling bloated, stuffed, and guilty, even though you ONLY had a *little* bit of everything!

Mindless eating is not uncommon; in fact, it's something I discuss regularly with clients. It is the consumption of food without really focusing on the act of eating. It can be characterized by eating without hunger, at a rapid rate, and even past the point of fullness. In contrast, mindful eating is paying attention to all aspects of the eating process, without judgement. It is about being conscious of your choices, truly tasting your food, noticing the texture, and observing any mental or physical responses related to the eating experience. And the good news is this: you don't have to be a zen master or nutrition guru to become a mindful eater, you just need to start with a few simple steps.

Here are three tips to help you build your mindful eating practice:

Ditch the distractions.

When it's time for a meal or a snack, turn off the TV, close your laptop, move away from your desk, and put your phone down. Eat when you are eating! Distracted eating often leads to overeating, and even indigestion. When you practice eating without distractions, you get better at tuning in to what you want, why you want it, and how much you need to be satisfied.

Get to know your hunger

Ask yourself: am I hungry? What part of me is hungry -- mind, eyes, nose, heart, stomach, or cells? Notice why you want to eat, without judgement. It is okay to eat for mind or heart hunger some of the time; however, the majority of the time, you want to soothe physical stomach hunger. Rate your hunger on a scale of 1 (ravenous) to 10 (stuffed). Start eating when you feel around 4 (a little bit hungry) and stop when you feel around 6 or 7 (satisfied, not full). And when you overdo it... let it go, guilt-free, and get back to the practice.

Make the first bite a mindful bite

Prep yourself: sit down, notice the colours on your plate, and smell the aroma of the food you are about to eat. As that first bite enters your mouth, pay attention to the temperature, flavour and texture. Observe any changes as you chew. Hold that piece of food in your mouth for longer than normal and then track it as it moves down your digestive tract -- from your mouth to your stomach. Become aware of any thoughts or emotions throughout the process. Commit to slowing down, and enjoy the rest of your meal!

Remember, we call this a practice for a reason! Mindful eating doesn't happen overnight, but it's a worthwhile commitment to help you heal your relationship with food and feel in charge of your eating.