Modern living has replaced important rituals that were observed keenly and devoutly in the past. Before, eating is too important an activity to be taken for granted.

Cultures and religions around the world put extra emphasis on mealtime—especially dinner. Even in American culture, most romantic dates, family bonding, and serious business deals are done during dinner.

But now, with the rise of technology, growing number of fast food restaurants and shifting work schedule, our daily eating habits have been disrupted. What used to be an honored ritual that bonds the family, friends and neighbors have become a passing activity. This way of taking meals not only breaks family bonding time, but it also contributes to weight gain.

Dangers of multitasking
According to a Harvard Health Blog, eating while doing other things destroys our appetite. A study cited in the article revealed that distraction and inattentiveness to meals result in eating more. It also shows that paying attention to a meal makes people eat less.

This study backs what neuroscientists have recently discovered: multitasking, or doing two or more things at the same time, is dangerous to both mental and physical health. In another study, researchers were able to prove that multitasking cuts down efficiency and performance because the brain can only focus on a thing on a particular period. If sustained, multitasking will able to make changes in our brains, making us less attentive and focused on our goals, such as weight loss.

Mindfulness in eating
If your brain has already rewired itself to a point that it already craves for multitasking, experts suggest an antidote—mindfulness. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, introduced mindfulness meditation to mainstream psychology as a form of psychotherapy. Derived from what Buddhist monks often do, mindfulness meditation is a conscious effort to experience every sensation at the present passively and nonjudgmentally for a definite period. The practice of deliberate focus and attention to one or all our senses regain our capacity to live in the present and make the most of the good things in life that are often taken for granted.

Just like Buddhist monks, ordinary people can make the most out of our food by mindful eating. Studies have shown that changing our meal attitudes and practices as well as mealtime rituals may be as significant as obsessing about the food we eat.

Experts say that it takes about 20 minutes before the brain starts signaling “I’m full” or “I’m not hungry anymore” that turn off appetite. Mindless eating makes you take in more calories than your body needs in 20 minutes.

Also, if you don’t pay enough attention and focus on what you’re eating, your mind cannot process the information. Hence, the details of the food you ate don't get stored in your memory. Without a memory of what you’ve eaten, you tend to eat again at a shorter period than you might have if you practice mindful eating.

To observe mindful eating do the following:
• Eat slower
• Appreciate the silence
• Eliminate distractions
• Pay attention to the flavor
• Know your food

Harmful eating habits
Are you guilty of devouring your food mindlessly? If you are doing any of the habits below, better change them now:

Eating junk foods – these foods are packed with ingredients that are full of harmful chemicals and salt and sugar that are contributors to obesity and pose dangers to your health.

Eating ‘on the go’ – A study found out that eating chocolates while walking around can make us eat five times more. You'll also have a hard time burning calories when you consume food while driving.

Eating out – Foods served in restaurants, especially fast food, can contribute to consuming a lot of unwanted calories. As much as possible, cook or prepare meals on your own.

Emotional eating – Eating should not be a tool to relieve your anger, stress or sadness. This practice can derail your diet and contribute to binge eating. Do some stress-reduction exercises first before taking a bite.

Midnight snacking – Be careful in sneaking out for a late-night snack as your metabolism is slowest during evenings.

Skipping breakfast – Eating breakfast increases the level of hormone dopamine responsible for moderating food intake. Dopamine can lessen food cravings later in the day.

Sleep loss or deprivation – While this is not an eating habit, sleeping less than 7-8 hours disrupts dieting.

Eating in front of the tube – Eating and watching television are two different activities that must not be done simultaneously.

Consider every meal as a time to take a full break from the activities of the day to replenish your energy. Give at least 20 minutes to chew and swallow your food. By eating mindfully, you can teach your mind and tummy to appreciate the blessings that you have.

Author's Bio: 

Anthony Chua is a freelance writer who contributes for and loves health, diet and fitness.