What is mindful eating?
Mindfulness in general is becoming increasingly popular in the Western World.
It has come over from more Eastern philosophy and religions like Buddhism.
In brief, it is the practise of being completely ‘in the moment’ and experiencing that moment completely.
Whereas often we are thinking several steps ahead or mulling over the past.
When it comes to eating mindfully, the idea to be ‘in the moment’ with the meal.
To not eat in front of the TV, the computer, or while working.
It is a real temptation in our busy lives to try and save some time by eating on the go, or while doing something else.
The problem is that then we end up shovelling food down mindlessly, with no awareness of what or how much we have eaten.
To eat mindfully is to take some time, to be really observant of the food, to listen to the signals of the body.
It is not about being ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ but it is about slowing down.
About acknowledging our hunger, our enjoyment of the food, our thoughts and feelings as we eat.
How can it help?
Eating mindfully can have an immediate impact on our eating habits.
As we slow down, take our time to really notice the food we eat, to chew it properly and enjoy if fully, we will find that we eat less.
Another bonus is that we can actually get a break from our busy lives when we stop to eat a meal.
We take time to examine our relationship with food and hunger.
Focussing all our senses onto the meal helps us become more tuned in to our bodies.
It can even help with making more healthy choices as we stop and really think about the food we are going to eat and how it aligns with our goals.
What can we do?
Try one meal a day, or even one meal a week.
Be really hungry for the meal, do not eat just because it is a meal time.
Eat this meal with no distractions at all, sit at the table, with no book, no work, no phone.
Take some deep breaths to help yourself slow down and become more calm.
Employ all of your senses;
- How does the food smell?
- What does it look like?
- How does it feel in your mouth?
- What does it taste like?
- Does the feel and taste change as you chew?
- Are you experiencing a pleasure response as you eat?
- Is your enjoyment of the food changing as you eat and become less hungry?
A good tip is to put your knife and fork down after each mouthful and be sure to chew your food properly.
This will allow you to decide if you are still hungry at any point.
It is ok to leave food!
It may be that this practice will show you that your portion sizes are a bit big.
This is a great thing to do if you have been struggling with overeating or episodes of bingeing.
It is also really, really useful in helping us see when we have been eating for reasons other than hunger.
So often we eat because we are stressed, bored, sad, or to cope with unpleasant emotions.
We know the key to weight loss is overall energy intake;
Eating mindfully will help you eat the right amount, without feeling deprived.
The book The Joy Of Half A Cookie by Jean Kristeller is a fantastic and comprehensive guide.