The 5-Day Mindful Meal Challenge

by | Jan 1, 2017

 

UPDATE: The Mindful Meal Challenge was such a success we’re going to run it again every week. Sign up now to start on Monday!

Mindful eating is the most underrated health habit everyone is talking about. Self-proclaimed wellness websites love to tout the benefits of slowing down and savoring your food, yet it almost never comes up in conversation with someone who is serious about losing weight or improving their health.

This is probably because mindful eating is a deceptively simple idea that is incredibly hard to implement.

Most people aren’t even sure what mindful eating actually is, and so they say things like “I try to eat mindfully” then just keep eating the way they always do and hope that one day they’ll magically stop going back for seconds. Fat chance.

But mindful eating really is an amazing thing if you can turn it into a habit. Focusing on the experience of eating has a bigger impact on how satisfying a meal is than the number of calories it contains (1). As a result you enjoy your food more, while naturally eating less.

Eating mindfully can also make you less vulnerable to eating triggers that can cause you to eat more quickly (2) and overeat (3).

For many healthy eaters, mindful eating is the last piece of the puzzle for finally losing those last few stubborn pounds.

Personally, mindful eating has helped me feel back in control of my eating experience. When I was a dieter one of the terrible eating habits I developed was gobbling my food in a frantic rush whenever I sat down to a real meal.

My frenzied eating was trigged by a combination of extreme hunger (since I rarely let myself eat when I wanted) and the guilt I felt from giving into it, making me want to get the meal over with as quickly as possible. These were not my finest moments.

Mindful eating is what enabled me to snap out of my frantic mindless eating habit and actually appreciate the beautiful food I am so lucky to have access to.

But dang is it hard to do.

Over the years my attempts at mindful eating would go something like this:

 

Thinks: “Mindful eating sounds great, I’m totally going to try that tomorrow.

Tomorrow breakfast. Sits, has coffee and muesli, takes a bite, then remembers, “I should probably just check the news really fast to see if anything important happened while I was sleeping.”

Breakfast disappears while scrolling through Facebook…. Oops.

Promises self: “I’ll definitely eat lunch mindfully.”

At lunch, sits down then remembers, “Shoot! I forgot to email that lady about that thing I need to order by 2pm today. I better do that real fast….”

Gets lost in email and cat videos. Oops.

Promises self again: “Dinner. Dinner will be mindful, I swear.”

Cooks lovely dinner, sets table, pours a glass of wine, sits down to husband already shoveling food in his face so fast half his plate is empty. Subconsciously thinks: “I’d better catch up or it’ll all be gone….”

Oops.

Promises self with renewed determination: “Tomorrow I’ll be mindful for sure. I’ll set an alarm to remind myself.”

 

And so it would go. I tried alarms, apps, breathing exercises, counting my chews, eating with chopsticks, and about a zillion other things to force myself to slow down and chew.

Ultimately I came up with a hack of putting down my fork whenever I noticed I had food in my mouth. This certainly helped me slow down and chew, but I can’t pretend it helps me focus on my food and enjoy it more. Mainly it helps me not choke.

It was not until this year––five years later––that I found an approach that has actually helped me eat mindfully every day.

I realized that one of my issues was that I came to mindful eating with the wrong mindset.

Mindfulness isn’t something you try to do or want to do, it’s a practice you commit to doing.

I had been waiting for the right circumstances to emerge for mindful eating to be easy or convenient (I learned the hard way that this never happens).

When it comes to mindfulness you must decide when you’re going to practice and make it happen.

“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

-Yoda

Instead of vaguely hoping to remember to not eat mindlessly, set a specific meal aside to eat mindfully and don’t do anything else.

The most common excuse I told myself to avoid mindful eating was that I didn’t have time. “Today is too crazy! I’ll try it later.”

The truth is I just wanted to use that time for something else (reading, email, podcasts, socializing) and fooled myself into believing that multitasking is more efficient. It isn’t.

Eating a meal mindfully takes 10 minutes, 15 at most. This is not extra time you need to find, you are already using that time to eat. If you still want to use the rest of your break to squeeze in some extra work, mindful eating won’t stop you.

The real reason we avoid mindful eating (and mindful practices in general) isn’t lack of time. We avoid it because it is hard to focus our attention in the present moment and the rewards are not immediate.

The benefits of mindfulness sound like something you’d like to have, but because they are abstract and you’ve never experienced them directly it isn’t something you are willing to prioritize.

But here’s the thing: You have to commit to the practice in order to make it over the hump. You have to experience the rewards for the habit to form.

Today I’m introducing the 5-Day Mindful Meal Challenge to help you become a mindful eater.

To participate, all you need to do is enter your name and email below, and commit to eating one mindful meal per day for five days.

Then head over to the Mindful Meal Challenge Facebook group and let us know you’re on board. That’s it!

Beginning on Monday, January 9, I’ll send you a short daily email and video to walk you through what to expect and how to overcome the most common obstacles. By the end of the challenge on Friday you’ll have a solid foundation for a real mindful eating habit.

If you’ve been wanting to become a mindful eater, but haven’t been able to stick with it then the Mindful Meal Challenge is perfect for you.

It’s a simple commitment to practice mindful eating just once a day for five days that will give you the experience you need to continue your mindful eating habit for years to come.

And it’s free.

Just enter your name and email to join the Mindful Meal Challenge:

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I hope to see you there!

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16 Responses to “The 5-Day Mindful Meal Challenge”

  1. Caroline R says:

    Started the Mindful eating challenge with my lunch today. My mind went walkabout to other concerns quite often but I managed to keep coming back to focus on my food – I discovered that I like ‘crunch’ in my food. I also found that the 15 minutes I set aside seemed to last forever – yet I can waste an hour or 2 web surfing quite easily – 🙄

  2. Patti says:

    I was really looking forward to this challenge. My hubby is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. Our son is here to help with after care. Not a good week to start! Will your videos be available next week when things quiet down for me?

  3. Caroline says:

    This is so interesting for me. Yesterday I realised that a lot of the thoughts I had when drifting away from mindful eating were about getting the approval of others or how to help others at work. Today while focussing on the mechanics of eating realised that while I deal with a mouthful I am organising my food in my bowl with my spoon to make it neat – whacky! Also everyday so far I have this really strong urge to finish every single morsel in front of me. I’m really enjoying the insights – hilarious.

  4. Cassie T says:

    Oh my gosh, Day 4 was hard!

    My triggers… just about EVERYTHING.
    Look down at my plate to prepare a bite. See my wedding ring from the corner of my eye. Start thinking about my husband’s and my weekend plans. Pull myself back.
    Take a bite. While chewing, glance up and see a poster with a bird on it. Reminds me of a hike I went on a few weeks ago and start trying to figure out the next weekend I’m free to hike. Pull myself back.
    Start to think about why I’m even trying to do this in the first place…

    Subconscious triggers…
    I feel like I have limited free time, especially at work. Is this really how I want to spend my 30 minute lunch? I like letting my mind wander, but also feel a constant need to feel at least somewhat productive.
    Which inevitably leads to…
    What’s the point of this? How am I benefitting from eating mindfully? Even if I can master mindful eating on my own, how is this going to affect meal times with others? My husband already eats twice as fast as me… Is he going to think this is dumb?

    While one “benefit” has been that I’ve felt slimmer this past week (I’ve been unintentionally eating less – about one less snack a day), that’s not a good enough reason. Since I live a pretty healthy lifestyle as it is, I don’t to add more to my plate without a more obvious benefit.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to take this practice into a more practical setting (I don’t want to forever eat in windowless rooms by myself :P).

  5. ss says:

    Not on Facebook—can I still join?

    Thank you!

  6. m says:

    Oh my goodness, this is magic!

    I’m not overweight. I’m not looking to lose weight. I’m in pretty decent shape, and I tend to eat well (few processed foods, mostly whole foods, etc).

    But this was just plain fun. Why didn’t occur to me before to, I don’t know, look at, smell, and taste my food?

    I even tend to eat slowly—which I thought was the same as mindfully—but all I was doing before was either being distracted (and hence eating slowly) or thinking “eat slowly, there’s no hurry.” (All well and good, but not the same as this—concentrating on where the tongue tastes most was so amazing!)

    I don’t know what else to say except that this was ENJOYABLE.

    I ate a Tate’s chocolate chip cookie this way—a pleasure food and one of the few pre-made cookies I enjoy—and found that as soon as I smelled it, I didn’t want to eat it. It didn’t smell like baking, but like plastic and cardboard.

    Anyway—highly recommend this experience, even if you think you already eat well and are in good shape. It’s lovely. Thanks, Darya!

  7. Dario says:

    Dear Darya,
    good to see you look so glowing well; my sort of Eureka moment was your pinpointing something I was perhaps unconsciously and maybe not so productively doing whilst mind wandering: looking at my food and minding its smell. Looking at it consciously it’s a way to start connecting with it.
    Chewing thoroughly might prove further challenge when difficult nose breathing distracts you and makes need to swallow the bite to breath with your mouth too.
    I enjoyed the series at least as much as your presenting skills and telegenicity.
    Take care and best wishes.
    Cheers,
    Dario

  8. Elaine says:

    How can I access the mindful eating challenge without signing up for Facebook? Is it something that you can just email to me? Thank you

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