Want to lose weight? Try practicing mindful eating

You have heard about the dangers of distracted driving, but many of us are guilty of distracted eating, too.

We eat on the run, pick up our phones, and turn on the TV. And we stop paying attention to the food on our plate, or how much we're eating. That can make it really hard to avoid over-eating and stay on top of our weight. But a relatively new approach known as "mindful eating" might help.

"Mindful eating is taking the practice of mindfulness and applying it to eating," said Emory internist Dr. Sharon Bergquist. "And the practice of mindfulness is a very ancient practice of being present in the moment."

Many of us, she said, have become mindless eaters.

"Because we've gotten in this habit of grabbing and going," Bergquist said. "We're typically multi-tasking. And when we're multi-tasking, we're giving our attention to the task."

Bergquist said we have two sides to our brains.

There's conscious brain, where we're concentrating and aware of what we're doing, and what we're eating. And then there's the instinctive, or primitive brain, where we're kicking into autopilot. That's what happens when we multi-task.

"So while we're focusing on an email, the primitive, instinctive part of our brain is grabbing chocolate cake," Dr. Bergquist said.

So, by slowing down, and turning off mealtime distractions, Dr. Bergquist said. We can learn to listen to our bodies, and gain back control over our eating.

"It's focusing on the foods that you're eating," she said. "Taking the time to choose, savoring the flavor, thinking about your body cues. Why you're eating. How you're eating."

To get started, take it one meal at a time, and slow down.

"Set aside time where you can actually just chew your food, think about the food and ask yourself, Am I full? Why do I continue eating?"  Bergquist said. "That's the best way to start breaking up the habits that have been established and to create better new ones."