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How Do You Eat?

Note: This is part of a short series of posts relating to the Mindful Eating cycle in the Am I Hungry? program, where each part looks at one of the decision points that goes into eating – why, when, what, how, how much, and where you spend your energy. This section looks at how much we eat. Learn more here or at

If you’ve never thought much about how you eat, you’re not alone. It’s not something that a lot of people focus on.

But how we eat is important. If we’re not paying attention, we may not even notice how the food tastes, or eat too much, or eat when we we’re not hungry, etc. The problem is that we have no shortage of things vying for our attention, making it that much harder to concentrate on the food. Or some people may be focused on food but not in a way that promotes enjoyment – for instance, thinking about how many calories are in each bite, or grams of a particular nutrient, or how many points it’s worth.

I got to thinking more about this when I was recently babysitting my nephew. He was just a little over six months old at the time, starting to get more interactive, smile, and laugh. What I found fascinating was that even though almost everything is new to him, and he can be very interested in a number of things, when he’s ready to eat, that’s pretty much all he cares about.

To illustrate, when I first arrived he was taking a nap, and he slept for quite a while. When he got up, therefore, he was hungry. As I fed him, at first he was entirely focused on the bottle, not only sucking from it but staring at it and holding it as hard as he could. Then as it got emptier, I noticed his attention shifting. He was still drinking, but he started to look at me and fiddle with my hair.

I experimented by pulling the bottle away a little, but he wasn’t having any of it. He made it very clear that he wanted to finish it. Once it was completely empty, though, he was clearly satisfied, because that time when I took the bottle away, he let it go without trying to grab it or starting to cry. Instead he was ready to play.

After some time in a bouncy seat and with books, he seemed hungry again. I was a little surprised but went ahead and gave him another bottle. Again, he latched right onto it, quite obviously without concern for the fact that it was his second bottle in an hour, or worrying if he was taking in too many calories, or anything like that. He simply wanted to eat, and while he was doing that, it was his whole world.

Although my eating needs and preferences are quite different, I felt like I could learn something from him. So I’m trying to remember more often when I’m eating to make that my sole focus, until I’ve had enough – and then I can go play.

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