As we begin to bring more awareness to the moment, the exact moment, when we reach for food, we also begin to notice how quickly we consume food.

From Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating:

Here’s the problem. We Americans start, finish and clear the table for many of our meals in LESS than 20 minutes. Our meals are remarkably short. Take lunch, for example. Drs. Rick Bell and Patti Pliner found that if we’re eating lunch alone, we spend only 11 minutes eating if we’re at a fast food restaurant, 13 minutes at a workplace cafeteria, and 28 minutes at a moderately priced restaurant. IF we’re eating with three other people, we tend to eat about twice as long but that’s still a speedy lunch.

That means we give more attention to an average TV sitcom than one of our meals! When we “inhale” a meal, there is little to no awareness – and its this very awareness we need in order to make some serious changes to our bodies.

So what can you do? What are some ways to slow down a meal so it’s not a fleeting memory:

  1. Sit! Stay! I know, it sounds like dog commands but many of us eat on the run, whether it’s in our car or walking out the door. When you take the time to set your table for a meal and sit down for the entirety of it, you’ll notice a certain awareness around your food intake begins to grow.
  2. What you see is what you get. That means that the amount on your plate is the amount you eat. Many people “sneak eat” by consuming many small plates of food or snacking as you prepare your meal. You fool yourself into thinking it’s just a little…and a little…and a little more…If you want seconds, wait a few minutes, relax then revisit the idea. If you choose to have more, say out loud, “I’m not hungry but I’d like some more food.” This contributes to your overall awareness and prevents you from mindlessly eating that second dish.
  3. Ritualize your meal. We all remember special meals. The kind of meals where the table was set beautifully, candles burned, music played and food was skillfully prepared. Of course, we can’t do that all of the time but there are ways to make every meal special. Put your food on a pretty dish or make yourself a fancy beverage (cranberry juice and club soda in a wine glass, for instance), turn off the TV, the cell phone. Treat yourself, even for the simplest of meals.

It’s hard in this day and age to take your time when there’s such a sense of hurriedness. But if you some long-lasting results, you need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle. The best part? These are pleasant changes – changes that remind us to appreciate and enjoy the richness of life, slow down a bit – for our overall mental and physical health.