Mindful Eating for a Healthier You

Mindful Eating for a Healthier You

On any given day, I have the same conversation with at least 10 patients: I tell them that without nutritional food choices, regular exercise, and a healthier lifestyle, they’re putting themselves at risk for serious disease—obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fatty liver. On their own, problems can change a person’s life. Together, they can lead to metabolic syndrome, which can spell premature death.

In talking with them, I find that their biggest problem was the same one suffered by Americans nationwide: They have what I call a low health IQ. They don’t understand how their body works, and they don’t understand what their body needs to stay healthy. They also don’t understand that they are making poor food and lifestyle choices. Many of them don’t even know what healthy food is—thanks to food-label confusion, store aisles stocked with unhealthy choices, and streets lined with fast-food restaurants.

Not to mention the fact that they’re not being mindful when they eat. On the rare nights that they bother to cook a meal for themselves and their family, it usually consists of fried meat, canned vegetables, and a boxed side dish—all followed up by a high-calorie dessert. Usually, they eat while sitting in the living room watching TV, meaning they tend to overeat and go back for seconds without even waiting to see if they’re full.

That’s the key to mindful eating—taking time to slow down and pay attention to your body’s signals. It takes 20 minutes for your body to recognize that it’s full—slow down when eating and listen to your body for those signs.

Mindful eating is about changing your relationship with food. It’s about understanding what food does for your body, and then slowing down when you eat to actually taste the food, the experience how it feels to nourish your body—and to know when you’re full and it’s time to stop eating.

When you eat mindfully, food tastes better, and your palate will begin to appreciate foods that are naturally more nutritious. Over time, that can help you make better choices and reduce the intake of excess sugar and salt and other unhealthy options that are so tempting to the taste buds. Mindful eating helps lower stress—including the stress of a poor relationship with food—which can reduce or eliminate emotional eating. That can help with weight loss, which can also lower stress. It’s really a bit of a two-way street, when you think about it.  

Here are a few tips for bringing mindful eating into your world:

  •    Create a colorful, appealing plate of food.
  •    Get rid of distractions like TV.
  •    Chew slowly.
  •    Sit down at the table with the family and have a conversation during the meal.
  •    Set an alarm for 20 minutes. When it goes off, put your fork down and wait two minutes to begin again—if your body wants you to.

As you become more mindful of your eating habits, that mindfulness can then spread to other areas of your life. Next on the list? A regular exercise routine. Better eating and exercise go hand in hand to a healthier you. In fact, exercise can be a substitute for mindless eating—instead of eating when you’re not really hungry, go for a walk.

My goal is to raise the health IQ of my patients and their families by helping them understand their bodies and the role nutrition plays in good health. I want people to understand that they can turn back time when it comes to the diseases that make up metabolic syndrome. By eating mindfully, and being mindful about overall health, problems like prediabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and even fatty liver can be reversed. But not without paying attention to what’s going on with your body and what it needs.


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