Do anything three times a day, every day of your life, and you’re bound to get bored. Eating is no different. Humans, however, are masters of distraction—which is how our screens became our loyalest dining companions. But they can get in the way of a healthy diet and a healthy weight in ways you may not realize.
Researchers in the fast-growing field of mindfulness research are learning that simply changing how we eat might be a key to weight loss. Mindful practices like meditation are being used as tools to improve health, lessen pain and dodge sickness in large part because they reduce stress. And since stress is often at the root of overeating, mindfulness seems to make us eat better meals, which means it’s likely possible to lose weight without dieting.
Mindfulness is the act of focusing attention on present-moment experiences. Apply that to a meal, and mindful eating means actually paying attention to the food you’re eating, making you less likely to thoughtlessly plow through a bag of potato chips, for instance. “The only thing you have to focus on is the food,” says Michael Mantzios, a mindfulness researcher and lecturer in health psychology at Birmingham City University in the U.K. “Mindfulness brings you back to the present moment, back to the present meal.”