Dr. Mike Gross delivered an impactful presentation to our THRIVE Program participants during their last session. I asked him to share some of what we learned so our greater community could benefit from his wisdom:
As human beings we have a remarkable ability to think about what is not happening in the moment. This may be helpful for planning and problem-solving, but according to research “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” Now imagine if we could literally see (think a cartoon bubble beside your head) your thoughts while you eat. My guess is we would observe the following; worry about events in the future, contemplation of events that happened in the past, judgment/criticism of self, positive/negative judgment of the food, or if you’re anything like me wondering what you’ll have for your next meal.
During your next meal, ask yourself a simple question – “Where are my thoughts right now?” If you find your mind is wandering notice where it has gone and without judgment return your attention to what you are eating. One of the best ways to do this is to use your senses. Notice the flavor, smell, and texture of the food. This noticing where your mind has gone and coming back to a task is a hallmark of mindful eating and truly is the weight lifting for the brain. The more repetitions you put in, the easier it gets, so be compassionate if you find you need do this over and over again. If it’s any incentive, research indicates that paying attention to a meal is associated with eating less overall.
Although we cannot completely eliminate mind wandering, we do have control of what we do while eating. Far too often we eat while doing other activities. Research suggests that people tend to eat more when distracted or not paying attention to a meal. In addition, multitasking while eating does not afford us the opportunity to fully experience and process what we are putting into our bodies. If you are seeking to cultivate mindful eating you can start by making the behavioral decision to eliminate distractions during meals.
Below are additional tips for Mindful Eating:
1) Sit down: This is not only a must for meals but it can also help with snacking. If you have a tendency to pick at food in the refrigerator or the kitchen cabinet, make a commitment to eat sitting down.
2) Slow down: There are many ways to do this such as eating with your non-dominant hand, putting your utensil down between bites, and setting a meal timer for 20-25 minutes.
3) Check in on your sensations of hunger and fullness: Ask yourself – “how hungry am I” on a scale of 1-to-10 before, during, and after meals.
4) Taste your food: Take small bites, chew your food. Notice changes during the course of a meal. In particular, you may notice the first few bites of a meal are particularly savory and tasteful.
5) Eat in silence: While a full meal in silence may be a bit excessive depending upon context, try spending 2-3 minutes in silence at the start of a meal to allow yourself to fully attend to your meal.
Dr. Mike Gross has a private practice in Somerset, NJ specializing in evidence-based treatment for eating & weight concerns. If you’d like more information visit his website at drmikegross.com or contact him via phone at (908) 913-0637 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.