You’ve probably done it before. Eaten your lunch in a rush and then wondered a few minutes later where it all went and how it actually tasted. When it comes to eating during mealtimes, many of us could benefit from the practice known as ‘mindful eating’.
So, what is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is predominately about bringing your focus to what you are actual doing in that very moment – eating. The aim is to pay attention to what is going on inside and around you whilst you are consuming your meal. It really has a purpose to heighten your awareness and senses, providing you with as much satisfaction whilst eating as possible. Mindful eating provides you with control.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
First and foremost, mindful eating can be used, as mentioned, as an awareness tool. It can help to identify unhealthy behaviour patterns surrounding food, such as eating too much or eating out of boredom. It can help in the reduction of binge eating and overall help you feel more in control and in turn, better with food.
On top of this, mindful eating has been shown to promote weight loss. This is due to mindful eating often promoting hunger cues, encouraging the eating process to be slowed down and paid more attention too. It can help with constant, unnecessary snacking when you are bored or out of habit. It allows questions to be answered such as ‘what am I consuming?’ and ‘does it fuel me and make me feel good?’
Mindful eating of course allows for a greater appreciation for food as well. Slowing down the process and not rushing through a meal allows for flavours to be savoured and for the experience to be enjoyed.
How can you try out mindful eating?
With any new change in behaviour, taking it slow is the way to go! Start by choosing one meal per day, or even per week to eat mindfully. Before eating stop for a moment and check in with yourself. Consider how you are feeling and ask yourself questions like:
- Am I hungry?
- Am I thirsty?
- Am I stressed? Bored? Worried? Rushed?
Often, we start eating because our minds compel us too, which is often the case when we reach for food for comfort, a distraction or because we are bored. By tuning into your body more, eating only when you are actually hungry or when it is at a set mealtime, you will gradually become better at knowing your real hunger cues in comparison to emotional ones.
Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” Then follow up with, “If I am feeling this way and I eat this food, how will it help me feel better? How will I feel after it?” It would be a good idea to come to the table with some hunger, but not ravenously hungry.
Should we try to eliminate distractions?
Removing distractions is one of the best ways to assist yourself with mindful eating. Remove distractions from your table or from the room in which you eat. The simplest, yet most important distraction you can get rid of whilst eating are screens. Turn off the TV, put your phone on do not disturb and simply enjoy your food. Often, we multitask whilst eating, causing extreme distraction and lack of connection to our food. Whether we are working, driving, reading, watching TV or scrolling through our phones, in that moment, we aren’t fully aware of what is going into our bodies.
Mealtimes can be a welcome change to the busy pace of your day, so take the time and opportunity to slow it down. Chew your food slowly, take smaller bites and savour the flavours and textures on your plate. Pause between mouthfuls and put your utensils down in between bites. You could even see how long it takes you to eat a full meal. In general terms, it should take you about 20 minutes.
Eating mindfully and spending more time chewing can actually improve digestion and help with absorption of nutrients too. And If you’re trying to watch those calories, then pop the serving bowls and leftovers out of sight in the kitchen so you’re less likely to go back for seconds. This will also keep you just focused on your own plate.