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Becoming one with your meal can help you eat less and slim down, but it’s harder than it sounds. We’ve got expert tips to help you stay present with your plate.

“Mindfulness.” “Presence.” “Awareness.” Whatever you choose to call it, the practice of staying in the moment is getting increasingly more attention for its ability to boost physical and mental health. One area where mindfulness shows particular promise: Our plates.

Over the past couple of decades, research has shown that mindful eating can help people stop binge eating, lose weight, and even reduce anxious food and body thoughts.

But what does mindful eating look like, exactly? Jan Chozen Bays, MD, explains it this way: “Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds of our food. We pay attention to the experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three-quarters full?”

Sounds simple enough. Problem is, thanks to distractions like Instagram feeds, Parks and Rec Netflix marathons, and (perhaps the most forceful distraction of all) your own thoughts, paying attention while you eat is often easier said than done.

So to help you become one with your meal, we’ve got 8 simple steps to eating more mindfully, adapted from The 5 Skinny Habits by David Zulberg. Practice them consistently, and the only thing distracting you at mealtime will be your looser pants.

Mindful Meal Step #1: Take a few breaths and focus before you start a meal.

Mindful Meal Step #2: Sit down at the kitchen or dining room table. You should not be standing in the kitchen, sitting in bed, or driving while eating.

Mindful Meal Step #3: Set the table nicely so it creates a positive atmosphere.

Mindful Meal Step #4: Turn off the television or computer, put down your book or newspaper, and stop talking or texting on the phone. You want to pay full attention to your meal and your body’s signals while you are eating.

Mindful Meal Step #5: Place a forkful of food in your mouth. Put the fork down after the food is in your mouth. This is a lot harder than you think. You’re hungry and you can’t wait to take the next bite! Resist the urge to slurp down the meal. Leave the fork on the table before you take your next bite.

Mindful Meal Step #6: Chew slowly and enjoy the texture of the food, its flavor and vibrant colors, and the food’s aroma. Be conscious of your different sensations and the overall experience. (One clinical study found that eating slowly led to eating less during meals in healthy women.)

Mindful Meal Step #7: Take a 2-minute break in the middle of the meal and decide how much more food you will want to eat to walk away satisfied but not too full.

Mindful Meal Step #8: Observe how you feel at the end of the meal. If you did overeat, don’t beat yourself up. Pay attention to the physical and emotional distress and strategize how you can prevent overeating at the next meal.

 

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