Mindful eating is the practice of being fully aware and present when you’re eating. It’s not a diet plan. It’s not a list of foods to eat and not to eat. And it definitely doesn’t include you counting your calories, carbs, protein intake. It’s simply being in the moment while you eat!
Mindful Eating Vs. Mindless Eating:
Usually, because of our very hectic daily lives, our eating practices are rather mindless. That is to say; we eat on the go, hurriedly in the car, and grab the first food item we can get our hands on, and sometimes don’t even pay any heed to our nutrient or calorie consumption.
Eating on an autopilot, to fill an emotional void can be pretty harmful to our bodies – because we are denying it it’s basic signals and needs. Alternatively, mindful eating not only satisfies physical hunger, but also satiates the emotional aspect of eating.
What Does Mindful Eating Involve?
- Noticing our cravings – Note whether they’re coming from a physical or emotional place. Emotional eating can be undone by process of habit formation.
- Acknowledgement of our emotions – accept and acknowledge the feelings, thoughts and sensations that come as we buy, prepare, serve and consume the food.
- Switching to healthier eating habits – we all know we should eat less sugar and junk food – logically. It’s only when we start to feel how the food affects us mentally, physically or emotionally, that we actually make the switch to healthier habits.
10 Benefits of Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is beneficial to our mental and emotional wellbeing, both.
Aids Weight Loss:
Mindful eating is an effective strategy for weight loss, because it encourages you to slow down, be more involved in the food making process, and more attentive while consuming it. Slower eating also aids digestion.
Helps Us Cue Our Bodies:
A lot of our unhealthy eating habits are rooted in how we cue our bodies to eat. There are two kinds of cues, emotional and physical – the former is often what cements our unhealthy eating habits. Mindful eating allows us to rely more on the physical cues of hunger than the emotional ones.
Helps Us Manage Food Portions:
Being aware of the nutritional needs of our body means we are better able to balance our food portions – we only eat as much as we need, we know our protein-carbs-fat ratio, and we put the extra food aside.
Promotes Heart Health:
Studies published in the journal Obesity show that practicing mindful eating habits has direct ties with a healthy heart –primarily because mindful eating improves our body cue, nutrient awareness and food portion management.
Controls Blood Sugar:
Eating mindfully involves physical cues of hunger and fullness, weight loss, and nutrition management – this can go a long way in controlling Type 2 Diabetes.
Allows Food Cravings to Pass:
Your brain has to realize that it has eaten enough –that usually takes about 20 minutes while eating. Not allowing yourself that margin can trick your brain into craving more food , way after you’re done – practicing mindful eating is a great way to control the urge.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety:
Immersing yourself in the process of cooking, cleaning, portion management, eating without rush – all of it allows us to really be in the moment while eating and slows down the raging, anxious thoughts in our heads
Helps Manage Eating Disorders:
Eating disorders are nothing but prolonged unhealthy patterns of eating. This includes starving, binge-eating, hedonic eating, obsessively thinking about food, and so on and so forth. Fundamentally, they stem from an unstable relationship with our food.
Mindful eating encourages a healthier, more holistic relationship with food – letting go of the diet-culture, and focusing on how food nourishes us. Erasing the negative associations with food can really help a person with an Eating Disorder.
Can Help Manage Emotions:
Mindful eating helps identify your emotional triggers, your stressors, childhood habits, any social influences related to food, and allows you to find alternatives to the negative patterns.
Mindful eating is simply an extension of mindfulness – at its core, mindfulness is about training your brain to focus. Attempting to eat without getting distracted, trying to remain in the present, avoiding multitasking by using tech, and redirecting your attention to the task at hand – all of this basically trains our brains to focus better in general as well.
4 Tips To Practice Mindfulness
Observe Your Cues
Ask yourself when you go grab a snack:
- Am I hungry or thirsty?
- Am I just bored?
- Do I feel empty?
- Am I feeling overwhelmed?
- How hungry am I?
This will help you see a pattern to your hunger pangs, and you can undo the unhealthy ones pretty easily after you discover them.
Be Present With Your Environment
When you’re at the table, just about to dig in – really be present and aware of your surroundings.
- To help, let go of tech – don’t look at your phone or watch TV.
- If you have to use tech, play soft and relaxing music.
- When you set your plate, look at the food – take in its appeal, notice the aroma, observe the textures.
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Focus on the table-conversations, the variety of food available instead of gadgets or TV
Savor The Taste
Because you need to spend approximately 20 minutes with your food for your brain to realize that it’s eaten enough – really savor the taste of every bite you eat.
- Don’t rush it – put your utensils down every 10 to 15 minutes, take a breather after every bite.
- Feel your food – the saltiness, spice or sweetness, note the changing texture of the food with every bite as you chew and swallow.
Ask yourself the important questions that will allow you to change your unhealthy habits.
- Where did I learn my eating habits?
- How can I select the food, amounts, and the time that is best for my body?
- How long after a meal do I feel hungry again?
- Do I feel better before or after eating? Do I feel energized or sluggish?
Mindful Eating is the art of savoring every bite you take, and leveraging your diet to its full potential. Start approaching your food with a mindful approach. It’s going to be more life-changing than you think!