How often do you eat without thinking, stuffing food into your mouth while multi-tasking? On the road, on the computer, watching TV, or just on the run – all of these distractions keep us from paying attention to one of life’s great pleasures.

The pleasure of eating lies in slowing down and fully experiencing all the elements of food. Why eat mindfully versus on the run? The answer lies in your health. Mindful eating reduces stomach aches, bloating and gas. You will eat fewer calories due to the satiating effects of mindful eating. You gut, blood and immune system will turbocharge your body’s ability to perform normal tasks.

OK, so mindful eating may not be the cure for cancer, but it’s high on my list of how to avoid chronic disease. What you eat is just as important as how you eat. With that said, let’s take a look at how to eat mindfully by slowing down and practicing an intuition-and-senses approach.

Sight – look at your food as if you are seeing it for the first time. Without naming or judging, see if you can notice the earth’s elements on the food. Can you see the water, the rain and the sunlight within the food?

Smell – without naming the scent, bring your food to your nose and smell it, and then describe what you smell.

Physiological reaction – bring awareness to what’s happening inside your mouth. Notice the saliva production, even though you have not put the food in your mouth. The mind and body are now working together. How are your senses responding now?

Touch – now place a small bite inside your mouth. Without chewing, notice how the food feels on your tongue. Without naming the sensation, just experience the food.

Motion and movement – your hand effortlessly brings food to your mouth, which opens and receives the offering. Actually, your tongue receives the food and is in charge of skillfully moving the food around between your teeth. Notice what your tongue does and how it does this every time.

Taste – now starting biting into the food very slowly. Bring all of your attention to chewing. How does the food taste? Think flavor and express this, be specific about the experience.

Texture – taste changes the more you chew, as well as consistency. You will become aware of the texture, especially as the taste expires. Notice the change in texture.

Swallow – not yet! Remain patient and observe. Well-chewed food will naturally find its way into the stomach. As it does, be thankful that your body can now assimilate the food.

Breathe – pause and put down your eating utensil. Notice all of your senses. What taste does the breath create? How does your breath feel with food inside your stomach?

Silence – silence is much like meditation. You are paying attention, in the present moment, with directed, focused, nonjudgmental awareness.

In addition to mindful eating, I recommend chewing your food 30 to 50 times per mouthful. Make mindful eating a daily intention. Start by mindfully eating one meal a day, that way it can be done in bite-sized chunks — pun intended. In time, just like a New Year’s resolution or any intention, your consistent practice will pay off.

How will it pay off, you ask? Remember, your health is my primary goal. When you properly chew your food (30 to 50 times), enzymes are released into your saliva. Most Americans largely miss this initial digestion process. These enzymes, mixed with well-chewed food, allow the stomach to effectively assimilate your food.

Your body wants to thrive on a healthy, whole-food diet. Give it half a chance this year by following the above steps to mindful eating. Your gut will thank you.