We’re a fast-paced culture that tends to rush through our days in the name of productivity. We also have different types of technology at our disposal most minutes of the day, so we’re usually tuned in while we do everything.

Eating is a common activity that gets rushed. Or even if we take our time, we eat while doing everything else, including watching TV, talking on the phone, reading or working. (When I’m eating lunch, you can find me right by my laptop, working away.)

That’s why I’m excited to announce that Psych Central is hosting a Slow Eating Challenge. We’re encouraging readers to experience — truly experience — just one meal in the next few days — and then tell us about it! You can learn more here.

So, today, I wanted to share a few ideas on how to slow down and truly eat mindfully. These are ideas from various experts I’ve interviewed here on Weightless.

For instance, registered dietitian Julie Norman defines mindful eating as “eating with compassionate awareness.  It’s eating without distraction.  When you eat, just eat, and eat only what you really want and need. The key to mindful eating is groundedness.  Letting yourself get settled in the moment.”

She suggested focusing on your thoughts, feelings and sensations before and while you eat. (Here’s more of that interview.)

Take a few moments before you begin eating to breathe intentionally.  Notice thoughts, feelings and sensations.  Stay aware of those three elements as you eat as they can affect your decisions and behavior.

If you get to a place where you are not sure if you want or need more, pause and breathe again for a few minutes quietly.  I encourage placing a hand on your belly to increase body connectedness.

You can even ask yourself out loud or in your mind, “am I nourished?”  Honor your body’s cues throughout the whole process even if thoughts and feelings make you question it.

Registered dietitian Michelle Neyman Morris suggested eliminating all distractions. (More of that interview.)

For some, much progress can be made by simply eating without distractions. Turn off the TV, computer, cell phone, put down the book (even if it’s on mindful eating) and just eat, checking in with your body every now and then, and non judgmentally noticing the thoughts and feelings that arise and pass away.

She also recommended a few resources on mindful eating: Eat, Drink and be Mindful by Susan Albers and Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays, which includes a CD of guided mindful eating meditations.

Ed Halliwell, author of The Mindful Manifesto, defines mindful eating in this way. (More of that interview.)

When we eat mindfully, we can actually practice being fully present to our food, and to the experience of eating it. So it means bringing awareness to sensations of touch, smell and taste, really appreciating the pleasure of food, which is one of the great and basic joys of being alive.

It also means being aware of what’s going in us when we eat – we’re paying attention to body sensations of emptiness and fullness in our stomach, for example, and our tendencies and urges to eat in a rushed way, just wolfing food down rather than really savoring it.

We’re not judging ourselves for those habits, but being curious about them, and experimenting with the possibility of slowing down enough to really be aware of food and our relationship to it.

He also suggested making time and space to just eat, whether that’s taking your lunch outside and eating in the park or sharing meals with friends and family.

Here’s an activity to guide you through mindful eating from Russ Harris’s book The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt. (I list a few other mindful activities from his book in the article.)

… pause for a moment before your first bite, and notice the different aromas of the various ingredients and the colors, shapes and textures of the different foods. Then, as you cut up the food, notice the sounds made by your cutlery and the movements of your hands and arms and shoulders. And as you eat the first mouthful, notice the tastes and textures in your mouth, as if you were a gourmet food critic who has never tasted a meal like this before.

Finally, check out this gorgeous video about the beauty of food. Because food — and the process of preparing food, enjoying it or sharing it — is beautiful. In the same post I also list some of my favorite food blogs. So if you’re thinking about enjoying a nice — and slow — meal tonight, see if they have any recipes you like.

Do you try to eat mindfully? What are your suggestions on eating mindfully?