A Crucial Missing Ingredient in Too Many Diets
Even if you put a lot of thought into the food you eat, there’s a good chance you’re not putting enough thought into how it tastes.
Not sure what I mean? Try this exercise: First, remember what you had for dinner last night. Now, describe it in detail. What did it look like? What was the texture like? Perhaps most importantly, what did it taste like? If you can’t muster more than a few words, you probably weren’t paying due attention to your plate.
All too often, we (especially we Americans) rush through meals without taking time to experience our food. It’s an unfortunate side effect of our overscheduled, multitasked-to-the-max lifestyle. We eat breakfast in the car on our way to work, scarf down lunch while pounding out emails, and robotically plow through dinner while directing 99 percent of our mental capacity to crying kids, iPhones, and TV sets.
At the other extreme, some dieters are so focused on their food’s nutritional stats — and counting calories, fat, protein, and carbs — that they forget to stop and enjoy their food. They’re busy crunching numbers instead of just… crunching.
Eating for Satisfaction
We need to shine a bigger spotlight on our super-speed, absent-minded, and (at times) calorie-obsessed eating habits, because they contribute to a poor relationship with food — and, ultimately, our nation’s obesity epidemic. We need to train ourselves to eat more mindfully, and we need to put pleasure, a much-neglected ingredient, back into our recipe for healthy eating.
Studies show that practicing mindful eating — which includes eating slowly, with focus and purpose, and taking time to savor food’s flavors — can aid weight management and recovery from eating disorders.
I have also observed this firsthand. While working for nutritionist Joy Bauer, I met countless inspiring individuals who had lost at least 100 pounds through diet and exercise alone. Over the years, I noted many common themes among the stories of successful Joy Fit Club members, one being that many had developed a great and sincere appreciation for food. You might think that these weight loss pros had to distance themselves from the delights of eating in order to slim down, but in fact, the opposite was often true. Many who hated to cook in their heavier days had grown into avid home cooks and foodies. They loved to create new recipes, try new ingredients and cuisines, and shop for incredible produce at farmers’ markets. They were eating less food, but felt more fulfilled because they had learned to make their selections wisely and thoughtfully. They didn’t eat just any old salad — they used the freshest ingredients and found unique ways to add crunch and creaminess to create a satisfying meal, both texture-wise and taste-wise. Nearly every single member told me that their palate had evolved as dramatically as their size, and they had come to crave the clean, wholesome flavors of fresh vegetables and fruit. What’s more, they found preparing and eating delicious meals to be rewarding and enjoyable.
Learn to Eat More Mindfully
I realize most people can’t afford to spend hours every day creating delicious food and reveling in every single bite (if you can, you’re probably a professional chef or billionaire gourmand!). Others just don’t get that much pleasure out of food: Cooking is a chore, and eating is something you can accomplish efficiently on auto-pilot. But I feel strongly that adopting a more mindful food approach, even by embracing just a few manageable changes, can make you a healthier, more satisfied, and all-around happier eater. Here are a few strategies to get you started:
- Take it one meal at a time. If it’s not possible to practice full-on mindful eating at every meal, start with the one that makes the most sense for your schedule. For some, that might be lunch, when you can find a quiet place at the office or a nearby park bench for a 15-minute reprieve. For others, it’s dinner, after you’ve signed off from work for the day, or an early breakfast, before the kids wake up.
- Treat food like a fine wine. Wine demands a certain amount of respect: People are inclined to sip it slowly, taste thoroughly, and, often, comment on its aroma and flavor. Maybe we do that because it’s what we think we’re supposed to do, or maybe we do it because we are spending a lot of money and want to make it last. Whatever the reason, why not approach the rest of the meal the same way?
- Take breaks. As my parents always told me, dinner is not a race. Set your fork down between bites, or take sips of water in between. You may need to mechanically force yourself to do this in the beginning if it seems unnatural.
- Set the right ambiance. When you sit down for dinner, play some soft background music on your phone, or dim the lights and light a few candles. It may seem a bit over the top for a Wednesday, but a more sophisticated setting may help you slow down and savor your food, like you would at a fancy restaurant.
- Hide the distractions. You can’t focus on eating if you’re focused on something else. Turn off the TV during meals, clear the paper clutter off the kitchen table, and put away your cell phone. The emails, texts, and tweets can wait 20 minutes.
- Learn from others who appreciate food. Head to your local farmers’ market and chat with some of the vendors and shoppers. Their passion for good, fresh ingredients is highly contagious and may inspire you to seek more pleasure from your plate.
Original article from https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/johannah-sakimura-nutrition-sleuth/crucial-missing-ingredient-too-many-diets/