About ten years ago, when my kids were little, we brought them to Disney World and had dinner at the “50’s Drive-in Diner” style restaurant. At the end of the meal, I was horrified when the waitress gave all five of us “Clean Plate Club” stickers.
Yes. That’s right. All 5 of us got the stickers. That was a long time ago, and as a family, we’ve learned a lot of lessons about healthy eating since then.
I took a long, hard look at our eating habits. Why did I eat so fast, and eat up every bit of food that on my plate? And how did I manage to set that example to my sons?
It probably stems from being the youngest of 8 kids, and whoever got to the food first simply had more to eat. But that was decades ago! I’m not that little kid elbowing my way through a bunch of older siblings for food anymore. I know that I’m going to eat again in a few hours, so why do I stuff myself full?
I started noticing how some of my naturally thinner friends ate. They seemed to pay more attention to what they ate. They didn’t just gobble the food down quickly. They “savored the flavor.” And in the end, they usually ate less. Hmmm. Maybe there’s something more to it.
Here are some of the things that I’ve noticed that these “mindful eaters” do differently:
1) Mindful eaters are fussy. If they don’t really like it, they don’t eat it – as if they’re picky kids. It has to be “worth it” for them to eat anything. They don’t waste their appetite on food that’s just so-so. They don’t eat it just because it’s there, like the leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts off their kids’ plates. (Takes one to know one!)
2) Mindful eaters don’t keep eating until they’re “full.” They only eat until they’re satisfied, or until their hunger is gone. They know that they’ll eat again in a few hours.
3) Mindful eaters eat slowly. We live in such a stressed-out society that we even apply that mindset to eating. But mindful eaters engage in the conversation, and enjoy the entire mealtime experience. One of my friends says that’s how her parents taught her how to make conversation at the dinner table – she was taught to put the fork down between every bite, engage in the conversation, and then pick up the fork again. (PS – She wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in my home!)
4) Mindful eaters are forgiving and flexible. Once in a while, they overeat. But they don’t waste time beating themselves up the next day. They say, “That was delicious, but I overdid it.” Then the next day, they eat a little less. They skip the self-recrimination and judgment. They don’t say, “Well, I’ve ruined my diet, so I’ll just throw in the towel now.” They just move forward.
5) Mindful eaters just eat. They sit down and pay attention to what they’re eating, rather than multi-tasking or just grabbing food in a rush and eating it while standing over the sink. They use more of their senses: they observe how the food is served, they taste and smell the food, and then they savor the flavor.
Many times it’s not about WHAT you eat, but about HOW you eat. Being a mindful eater is not as easy as it sounds, but it can make a profound impact on your eating habits. Try just one of these mindful eating tips for a week, and let me know how you make out.