In our busy fast paced lives, it is essential to practice the art of Mindful Eating. Practicing a more mindful approach can enhance the enjoyment of meals, reduce overeating, help in good digestion and reduce anxious thoughts surrounding food and improve our relationship with food.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is an approach to food that focuses on being fully present while you are eating. It also increases awareness of your thoughts, senses and feelings during and after you eat. It means:
• Allowing yourself to become aware of the food selection and preparation.
• Using all your senses to choose to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
• Acknowledging responses to food without judgement (likes, dislikes).
• Becoming aware of physical hunger, and satiety cues to guide your decisions and eating
Why be more mindful when eating?
Mindful Eating opens up an opportunity to appreciate food more and make a better connection with it. Some studies suggest that mindful eating can help support emotional eating and binge eating, promoting a healthier relationship with food.
Eating mindfully may also help regulate appetite, aid in digestion and make eating an enjoyable and pleasurable experience. Mindful eating is not about restricting yourself, it is about enjoying and appreciating food. Although some people may find that eating more mindfully leads to weight loss, doing so with the expectation or intention to lose weight can be self-defeating.
Food is there to nourish your body and soul. It provides us with wholesome nutrition to facilitate optimal functioning of our body.
When you eat better, be mindful and aware it makes you feel better not only physically but also psychologically.
Here are a few ways we end up eating without being aware, also known as “Mindless Eating”.
1. Eating past full due to stress and ignoring our body’s signals (burping, fullness and satisfaction).
2. Eating food when our emotions tell us to eat (that is when we are stressed, lonely, sad or bored) – ending up with binge eating or overeating while watching the television.
3. Eating alone at random places and random times without any fixed food schedule and eating in large quantities.
4. Eating foods that are emotionally comforting in large quantities (pizza, burgers, chocolates, ice-creams etc.).
5. Eating when stressed and when performing multiple tasks at one time.
Practicing Mindful Eating is something that many of us can benefit from – whether to create better eating behaviors or a better appreciation for food. Here are some useful tips on how you can practice eating more mindfully.
Ways to Practice Mindful Eating
Let your body catch up to your brain – Eating rapidly past full and ignoring your body’s signal versus slowing down, eating and stopping when your body says it’s full.
Slowing down is one of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need for nutrition. The body actually sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often unconsciously overeat. But if we slow down, you can give your body a chance to catch up with your brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount.
A few old ways to slow down include – sitting down to eat without any distractions, chewing each bite 25 times, setting your fork down between bites and not talking a lot while eating.
Understand your intention to eat – Eating foods that are emotionally comforting versus eating foods that are nutritionally healthy.
Recognize and make yourself aware that when you are eating for reasons other than physical hunger. Sometimes emotions can trigger hunger, therefore it is important to identify what drives your eating.
Some things listed here may help you recognize emotional hunger from physical hunger.
• Emotional hunger is likely to come on suddenly whereas physical hunger will build over time.
• Emotional hunger will usually create a craving for a particular food whilst physical hunger is more likely to be satiated by any food.
• It is entirely normal to eat in response to thoughts and feelings from time to time. Recognising this without judgement, and satisfying your emotions by enjoying the food slowly with all four senses. This can support you with emotional eating behaviours.
Try to build a Mindful Kitchen
Another way that we eat mindlessly is by wandering around looking through cabinets, eating at random times and places, rather than just thinking proactively about our meals and snacks. Having a mindful kitchen means organizing and caring for your kitchen space so it encourages healthy eating and nourishing gatherings. Consider what you bring into your kitchen and where you put things away. Are healthy foods handy? What kind of foods are in sight? Try to Plan ahead and stick to regular meal times. Make a plan of your meals and snacks for the week. Also, consider eating at regular times throughout the day. This helps to regulate your levels of hunger which could positively impact on your eating behaviors and food choices.
Attend to your plate in front of you
Multitasking and eating is a recipe for not being able to listen to your body’s wants and needs and which in turn results in the start of many medical health issues. When we are distracted while eating it becomes harder to listen to our body’s signals about food and other needs. With your next meal, try single-tasking and just eating, with no screens or distractions besides enjoying the company you are sharing a meal and conversation with.
Avoid distractions. Try not to eat while you’re on your laptop, phone, reading or watching TV so that you can relax and enjoy your food in the moment.
It is much advisable to practice eating mindfully as you are attuned with your body and you acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. It can help encourage positive eating behaviours and healthy eating choices as you choose foods that are nourishing as well as satisfying to the body.