Mindfulness is one of the most important practices to adopt that can help improve your overall quality of life. Mindful eating is one of the best ways to help heal our relationship with food. Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of being “aware”. Most of us live each day consumed by doing and thinking of multiple things at one time. It is our tendency to constantly be multitasking while on-the-go that diminishes our ability to be aware in the present moment. This then takes away from our ability to experience true joy and satisfaction with what is unfolding in the now. Too often our minds are stuck ruminating on the past or present, which saps the joy from the now. It also robs us of the ability to truly be in-tune to what we are feeling, physically and emotionally, and be able to respond appropriately to those needs rather than impulsively (i.e. emotionally eat).
For example, let’s say you’re checking your phone and thinking about work while having a conversation with your spouse. This mindlessness detracts from your ability to connect with your loved one and will, more likely than not, not allow them to feel seen and heard. He or she will likely grow frustrated, thereby affecting how they treat you. Maybe your spouse becomes hurt and snaps at you out of frustration. This then will trigger stress within you, and without thinking you head to the cupboards and begin snacking on whatever is in sight, even though you just finished dinner. And so the ripple effect ensues, resulting in unfulfilled relationships, greater at-home stress, and an expanding waistline.
Studies show that when we eat mindlessly, we consume significantly more calories because we are out of touch with our body’s hunger cues and aren’t registering how a food or beverage actually tastes. When it comes to overeating, practicing mindfulness is absolutely key for three main reasons.
- When you are mindful of your physical hunger cues, you will be better able to eat when you’re truly hungry and stop when you are truly satisfied. This will reduce your overeating because you will not be distracted by electronics, or whatever else you typically do while eating.
- If you become mindful of what you are feeling in the moment, then you will more easily detect when you are reaching for food due to emotional reasons such as stress, loneliness, boredom, frustration or sadness. When you can pause and tune into your body and understand what you are feeling that is causing you to want to eat, then you’re in a position to be able to choose a more effective way to deal with that emotion rather than eating. For example, if you’re sad, call a friend to talk about it. If you’re frustrated, go boxing or get in a great workout to relieve the built up emotion. If you’re stressed, try meditation or yoga.
- When you actually eliminate all distractions and sit down with the sole intention to eat your food with your complete awareness, it will enhance your eating experience tenfold. When you can truly taste a food, notice the textures and engage all your senses in the eating experience then you’re able to derive heightened satisfaction and pleasure from the act of eating. How many times have you scarfed down a delicious meal so quickly that you were left feeling unsatisfied because you didn’t really taste it? Imagine if you slowed down and intentionally enjoyed each bite of your favorite meal, savoring every morsel- it would completely transform your eating experience.
How to practice mindful eating:
- Sit down at a table with the snack or meal you will be eating.
- Pause before taking a bite and take a few deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the nose.
- Scan your body and notice your physical symptoms of hunger, such as your stomach growling, your mouth watering or perhaps a slight headache.
- Next, engage your 5 senses as you begin your eating experience, noticing how your body and brain respond to each.
- SIGHT: How does the food look? Notice the colors, texture, and composition of the food.
- SMELL: Smell the food. What aromas do you notice, no matter how faint?
- TOUCH: Pick up or touch the food item with your hands or a utensil. Notice the texture and how it feels in your hand, or how the utensil feels when it makes contact with the item.
- TASTE: Bring the item to your mouth and take one bite, again noticing the texture, as well as the taste. Is it sweet? Salty? Bitter? Bland? Does it taste fresh or like chemicals? Notice your reaction to the taste.
- SOUND: What sounds do you notice as you bite into and chew the food? Perhaps it’s a crunch or slurp and maybe nothing at all.
- Put your utensil down between each bite and be mindful to fully chew the food item before swallowing.
- Continue eating this way, monitoring your physical level of satiety as you go.
- When you notice that you are feeling satisfied and your stomach is about 80% full, stop eating.
- Ideally, aim to take about 20 minutes to eat your meal since that’s how long it takes for the brain to register fullness.
Give mindful eating a try! Keep an open mind and be patient with yourself as you try to train yourself to eat this way. It can be a challenge, especially at first, because we are so accustomed to a mindless way of living and eating. Send us a message and let us know how it’s going for you!