Sliced watermelon, plums, lemons, strawberries and peaches are in focus.
Doesn’t this look amazing? Follow your taste buds and brain when picking smart, healthy options. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Want to have more energy and feel better about yourself?

Then it’s time to embrace your healthy weight and say goodbye to diets forever with an approach called “mindful eating.”

“Living a healthy lifestyle includes more than just what you eat and drink,” said Caren Dobreff, a registered dietitian with Spectrum Health. “Restful sleep, regular exercise, strength training, stress reduction, social interaction as well as avoiding tobacco and too much alcohol all factor into the equation of being healthy.”

Eating mindfully includes different aspects surrounding food.

Your eating environment can also dictate (or influence) what you eat and how fast you eat.

When we look at eating patterns with positive health outcomes such as the Mediterranean approach, we see that eating with others is as important and as much a regular part of this diet as the food itself.

So instead of dieting or obsessing about your size, choose to accept yourself and focus on being healthy, the mindful way.

Adopt a new attitude about food and feel healthier with these tips:

Tip No. 1: Avoid movie popcorn syndrome

Mindful eating is about paying attention to your food, and you’ll do that best when you’re not multi-tasking.

So turn off your TV, set aside your smart phone and enjoy your food. Notice the texture. Breathe between bites.

And listen to your body so you know when you’ve eaten enough.

“Since it can take 20 minutes for our stomach to receive the signal that it’s full, the slower we eat, the less likely we are to overeat,” Dobreff said. “Practice your eating pace: Put together a set list of soft music such as smooth jazz or classical that takes 30 minutes. Aim to use all of the 30 minutes to eat your meal. Play that at a low volume during meals to help keep your food intake at a healthful pace.

Conversely, eating fast can lead to excess calorie intake if we eat at a faster rate than our brain and stomach can communicate.

Tip No. 2: Eliminate the diet mindset

Instead of focusing on self-denial, embrace your favorite foods. But balance your meals by adding more color and texture to your plate to create more enjoyable meals that focus on giving you energy and health.

“We often eat with our eyes,” Dobreff said. “Make your plates as visually appealing as they are delicious. Add a sprinkle of freshly chopped herbs such as basil, parsley or cilantro on top of a plated meal, chili or soup or add colorful vegetables into a mixed green salad such as cherry tomatoes, scraped carrots, diced bell peppers or even berries.”

Eating foods that make you feel your best, instead of just filling your stomach or satisfying cravings, will pay off in the long run.

Tip No. 3: Enjoy the moment

Mindful eating includes savoring each bite. Set down your fork between bites. Consider lighting a candle and putting flowers on the table.

“Let all of your senses experience what you’re eating: smells, appearance, touch or texture, sound, and of course taste,” Dobreff said. “Before you take your first bite, if you’re eating something that needs utensils, cut a smaller than usual portion and put your utensils down in between bites.”

Sure, there will be times when you need to scarf down your food before the next meeting or gobble fast food while driving down the street. But make that the exception, not the rule.

Tip No. 4: Wake up your body

Take time to enjoy your day more by finding pleasure in physical activity.

Whether you walk, do yoga or just park farther from the entrance to the grocery store, adding more activity to your life will awaken your body.

You’ll be more in touch with how you feel. And you’ll be able to take that awareness to the table for more mindful eating.

“Increasing your metabolism can help you achieve and maintain your body-weight goal,” Dobreff said. “Increasing muscle mass through strength training and our endurance with continuous exercise can all help improve the rate we burn calories, even when we’re sleeping.”

Tip No. 5: Focus on what’s meaningful

Embracing your healthy weight will help you have a healthier relationship with yourself and with food. Instead of accepting society’s unrealistic images from television and in magazines, think about what’s important. Find time for yourself and the things you enjoy. Slow down and enjoy food as a pleasurable, multi-faceted experience, not an escape from stress.

“We know now more than ever that eating plans and patterns that focus on healthful food with appropriate portions in the setting of increased activity, social support can yield long-term success, positive body change outcomes and also encourages healthful relationships with food,” Dobreff said.

The road to mindful eating is a journey that takes more than a day or a week. Over time, by engaging in mindful eating, you’ll reinvent your attitude toward food and reap the benefits of eating healthier.