Resolve not to “diet” ever again. Overly restrictive weight-loss diets tend to lead to the roller coaster effect of body mass changes and emotions. Instead of cutting out all the foods you enjoy eating, resolve to eat all food with intention and attention.

Eating with intention and attention allows you to be more attuned to your body’s pleasure, hunger, and fullness signals. Paying attention will enable you to enjoy food choices more, experience greater satisfaction, and nourish your body, mind, and spirit. Also, studies show that when people eat without distractions, they consume about 15 percent fewer calories. The information below can help you in your journey or share with others who need to let go of the all-or-nothing approach to achieving a healthy size.

How to Eat Intentionally: Be Aware

Breathe: Take a deep belly breath through your nose. Exhale through your mouth. Repeat three times.

Notice: any emotions or feelings that may be present.

Be Inquisitive about your hunger. Ask yourself these questions:

Am I hungry? A yes reply leads you to the next question; a no answer may lead to self-reflection.

How hungry am I? Determine if you are ready for a full meal or just a snack. Be mindful to avoid a ravenous state where you lose all self-awareness.

What am I hungry for? You may know the exact food. Describe the characteristics of the food: crunchy vs. soft; smooth and creamy vs. chewy; salty vs. sweet; finger food vs. knife and fork; hot vs. cold; cooked vs. raw. Food characteristics contribute to food satisfaction.

What food will fulfill my hunger? If you ignore your true hunger, you will likely continue to eat until you satisfy what you wanted in the first place.

Deliberately Pay Attention

Feast without eating. Notice the color, texture, and shape of the food.

Reflect on the journey. Take a moment to consider what went into your food’s creation. Who was involved (the people, sun, earth, water, etc.)? Consider the quality and the sources of the food. Perhaps, just for a moment, express gratitude.

Notice the aromas. Take a deep breath through your nose and notice how the food smells.

Be aware of taste, texture, and flavors. After you take a bite and begin to chew, but before you swallow, describe to yourself the taste, texture, and flavor.

Chew thoroughly. As you chew, move the food particles around with your tongue. Allow the bits to come in contact with every part of your mouth, tongue, and gums. Fully savor and enjoy the experience. Swallow when ready.

Pause. Envision the food moving down your esophagus to your stomach. If you are using a utensil, consider setting it down.

Evaluate the experience. Were the quality and taste what you expect from that type of food? Did it meet your expectations?

Pause and reflect. Using a one to ten scale, decide how much you enjoyed the food. Let this awareness help form decisions about what to do next. If your rating is less than seven, you can decide to stop. Give yourself permission to leave food on your plate and even discard edible food though you may be able to store it for later or continue eating.

Become aware of fullness and satisfaction. Are you still hungry for this food? Has your stomach noticed that you have eaten? Do you feel overfull or just right?

Post Meal Reflection

Reflect on the emotions you felt before eating. Did eating resolve any emotion you felt before you ate? If the answer is no, then ponder what you could do differently next time the feeling arises.

The Journey Continues

You may have eaten without paying attention for most of your life. Allow yourself time to develop new habits. As you become more practiced and hone your attention skills, mindful eating will become more natural. Over time, you will learn to eat in ways that are satisfying, free of guilt and struggle, and in quantities that support optimum health and well-being.

Nancy Teeter is a Registered Dietitian and a SaddleBrooke resident. Though she is mostly retired, she is passionate about sharing her nutrition knowledge with others. This article should not replace advice from your medical provider.

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