Every day, without fail, I start my morning by eating breakfast while watching the Today Show, eat lunch while typing away on my computer, and eat dinner staring at the television with my husband (usually Jeopardy) and intermittently checking my email. There are so many distractions I hardly realized I just ate! This can lead to many problems, including feeling unsatisfied after eating (did I taste my food?) and eating too much by missing fullness cues by the body.
Step one for mindful eating is to get rid of all distractions during meals and snacks. This means no cell phone, television, computers or telephones. Nothing but you and your plate of food.
This may sound daunting, but there are many tips to help you out:
- Create a space at home where it is an eating only zone. This may be the dining room, a kitchen table or in a sunroom. Somewhere in your house where you can be comfortable and avoid distractions. Grab a comfortable chair, set the table so it looks appealing, and make sure the lighting is to your preference. You want this to be a pleasant experience. The area should be soothing and zen-like, with a peaceful quietness, so you can put your full attention on your body and eating.
- Make sure all electronics are turned off and away from the dining area. You do not want to hear the television on in the other room or music playing. Put your phone on silent and keep it in another room while dining, as well as your laptop, tablet and other pieces of technology. Keeping them out of the room will help you focus on eating, not communicating.
- If you are eating with others, try not to speak. With many families, this may not be possible. And that’s fine, you can still practice mindful eating and catch up with your loved ones.
- Do not eat while in a conversation. If your daughter is telling you about her amazing day at school, put down your fork and give her your full attention. When she is done, then you can eat with your full attention.
- Try setting up times for talking and times for eating with your family. Perhaps you sit down at the dinner table for 5-10 minutes before eating to catch up on everyone’s day. Then when the food is served, everyone is quiet until the last person is finished eating. If your children finish eating before you do, then they can go work on homework, read a book or work on an art project. Just remember that they need to be quiet to respect your mindful eating time.
- At work, find a quiet space that you can eat alone away from your desk. This may be on another floor, outside the building or even in your car (with the radio off). You can still socialize before and after you eat, but when eating, you are focused just on your food.
- These rules apply to snacks as well. When you are hungry for a snack, put down the phone, step away from your computer and turn off the television. Try to avoid snacking while driving, working or socializing.
The rules are not set in stone so play around with them this week until you find a method that works for you. Your goal is to find a comfortable environment where you can focus on the act of eating with no distractions.
Your challenge this week is to eat at least one meal a day with no distractions. Try to make it your biggest meal of the day, whether that is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Work your way up to eating all 3 meals a day and snacks.
Share what did and did not work for you in the comments section to help others with eliminating meal time distractions.