Mindful eating may very well be the most important skill to have if you are trying to lose weight and keep it off. But what does it mean to eat mindfully? Eating mindfully means slowing down and being present during your meals, instead of rushing and eating in a hurry as most people do.

You want to take about twenty minutes to enjoy your meal. Why twenty minutes. Is it just a number picked out of thin air? No. There is valid scientific reason for taking twenty minutes to enjoy your meal. When you start eating, it takes about twenty minutes for the information to be transmitted from your gut to the satiety center in the brain. If you rush, you could end up eating a lot of food before the satiety center is stimulated. However, if you slow down, once the satiety center is stimulated, you will feel satiated on a much smaller amount of food. It is a great way to control your portions without thinking of the sacrifice that is inherently implied when you think of portion control.

Here is how to practice mindful eating:

·Be intentional and deliberate about it. Decide that you are going to do it

·Note the time you start your meal and anticipate taking at least twenty minutes to eat

·Chew your food completely. Take your time. Bathe your taste buds with your food and appreciate the rich flavors. Remember the taste buds are in the mouth not in the stomach

·Be thankful for the food and the people who prepared the meal

·Take sips of water in between bites

·Put your fork down

·If eating with friends or family, talk to them. Ask about their day and listen. Enjoy and appreciate the company

·If you are eating alone, look around the room and notice something of interest. It could be a piece of art. Notice and enjoy the details.

·Pay attention to how you feel during your meal and even after. This could help you identify food sensitivities or emotional eating triggers

·Stop eating when you feel satisfied not stuffed

·Don’t worry about finishing everything on your plate

·Practice mindful eating at every meal

Make mindful eating a habit and it could lead you to being more mindful in other areas of your life. It is fair to say that we do too many things in a hurry in modern life. Slowing down would allow us to fully appreciate the richness of all of life’s wonderful experiences.

Ife Ojugbeli, MD, MBA