When hungry, we bolt down a sandwich at our desks. We crave, we snack; we binge, we crunch; we get emotional, we chug drinks. We pick a take away to gulp it down in seconds (!). We feel guilty, we turn to “revolutionary diets”, which do not fit our lifestyle. Disappointed, we drop out and go back to previous habits. It’s not surprising that our society became obese.
Our busy lifestyles resulted in developing an unhealthy relationship with food. Most of the time, it comes from a lack of acceptance and a place of fear.
But, be assured, it doesn’t need to be this way!
If we focus on nourishing our bodies, accepting the way we are without letting of any judgments and combine it with mindful eating, we can truly make a difference to the way we feel about food and especially how we feel after consuming it.
While nourishing is a very broad subject, which we covered in a few previous posts, this article focuses on mindful eating; it explains what mindful eating is, what are its benefits and what you need to do to get started.
What is mindful eating?
Mindfulness while eating is a form of meditation which focuses on recognizing and helping you cope with your emotions and physical sensations associated with eating. The most popular definition found on the internet says that mindful eating simply is eating with awareness.
We believe it starts even earlier than that…
Mindful grocery shopping
Mindful eating begins from grocery shopping. It’s about our conscious choices of what types of food and ingredients we buy, where they are coming from, how their growth affects the environment. It’s about making aware choices that will not only benefit yourself by choosing nourishing ingredients but also help the society, especially those who produce it and the planet (if produce in organically or eco-consciously).
Mindful food preparation
Mindful eating covers also food preparation, noticing the colors, developing awareness of smells and tastes of the spaces while cooking. It’s about placing your food on your plate, appreciating its look to finally enjoy eating it.
Mindful food consuming
And finally, it’s about eating slowly and owning the moment. Paying attention to all sensations, the taste, how the texture feels on your tongue. It’s about becoming aware of the positive and nurturing benefits that are available through food and about awareness of how your body reacts to different food types and spices used.
Based on that, we would define mindful eating is a form of a meditation celebrating the joy of food preparation and satisfaction of eating it while being fully present during meals.
Mindful eating and slow eating
In simple words, slow eating is part of mindful eating, but not every slow eating is mindful. Slow eating gives a great start to mindful eating and just applying the practice can provide benefits to your health.
A recent study by Japanese researches discovered a close relation between slow eating and decreased BMI (body mass index). We eat until we feel full. Digestion is a process, which involves communication between your stomach and your brain; it can take about 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your nervous system to send out signals of fullness. When the signal from the brain finally comes, the fast eaters have already consumed more than the slow eater did. It means that easting speed is a contributing factor for obesity.
And there are even more benefits…
Benefits of mindful eating:
As Hippocrates said “let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” here we listed benefits of mindful eating supported by scientific research:
- Weight loss
- Reduce stressed and increase relaxation
- Better digestion
- Less snacking and binging
- Makes you do better choices
- Control food instead of it controlling you by reducing food cravings
- Enjoy the moment
- More enjoyment during pregnancy
Mindful eating- how to get started?
Start from eating your breakfast or lunch in a slower, more present and focused manner. Here are some tips, tricks and techniques to mindful eating to help you get started:
Before you eat:
- Never shop when you are hungry.
When hungry we tent to buy comfort/ caloric food even more according to new research from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. Make sure you have eaten before you head to the grocery store.
- Remove processed foods from your home.
If you don’t bring processed foods into your home, you won’t eat it. Clear the shelves. Try limiting saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium in your cooking and in the prepared foods you choose. Read more about it here: How to eat healthy when working from home.
- Set a timer to 25 minutes, and take that time to eat your usual-sized meal.
- Take a small bite. Close your eyes. Try to really taste it. Savour the flavours. Chew it slowly (20-30 times) while paying attention to the texture, the presentation and the flavours of the food and combination of your experience. You can even take notes. Pretend that eating the meal is like a wine tasting. It forces you to notice subtle differences otherwise may miss.
- If you have problems with slowing down, use your non-dominant hand to eat. This is challenging and will require slowing down. You’ll have a new appreciation for the clumsy fork work of a 3-year-old. You can also use chopsticks if you don’t normally use them.
- Instead of attempting to multitask, eat with no distractions. Stop reading and stop watching television. Just eat silently for ten minutes.
- With every bite, try to imagine what it took to produce that meal, from sowing the seeds, through raindrops watering to the farmer who picks it to your shopping, selecting a recipe to cook it
What does mindful eating involve?
- Accept that there is no ideal way what to eat, how to eat and when to eat
- Listen to your body and differentiate craving from hunger- is your stomach rumbling? Do you feel weak? Would almost eat anything? Then it is more likely a hunger.
- Acknowledge that everyone’s eating experiences are unique
- Directing your attention to eating on a basis
- Understand how you make your groceries buying choices that support health and well-being. Think nutrition first.
- Becoming aware of how the food you consume impacts the environment, people producing it and the balance on our planet.
Once you’ve got the hang of this, mindful eating will become more natural. Then you can focus on implementing this method into more meals!
Try It Today
Hopefully, you feel as though some of the benefits of mindful eating have spoken to you and that you will be able to implement these practices into your daily life. Try mindful eating as a part of the practice of mindfulness
Let us know how you getting on with it in the comments below!