Have you ever reached the end of your day, thought over what and how often you ate and realized you almost can’t remember consuming half of those calories?That’s common in our “hurry-up-with-everything!” world.And unfortunately, rushing your meals, gulping food down when you’re on the go or behind the wheel, and eating a lot of fast food are all factors that contribute to obesity and heart disease. Mindful eating is a great way to combat those problems. With a bit of planning, you can make food work for your waistline, not against it. Paying close attention to what, how, and when you eat is part of mindful eating. But we aren’t going to kid you – it takes a little work to adjust to this new approach to eating. However, the rewards are huge.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is a broad Buddhist concept, which in essence means you approach everything (not just eating) in an attentive way, meditating on each decision, action and choice you make in life.It is in some respects like silent prayer, except mindfulness is meant to be practised throughout the day as you go about your daily routines. Mindful eating means paying attention to everything involved in food consumption – from planning meals to setting the table to the process of chewing.In this article, we explain how to start eating mindfully, and then we do a deep dive into the practice’s many benefits.
How To Start Mindful Eating & How To Practice Mindful Eating?
Here Are Some Guidelines To Get You On The Road To Mindful Eating:
Don’t Leave Distractions On While Eating
That means no television, no radio, no stereo, and definitely no phone or laptop. It’s a big ask, we know. But these distractions serve as blinkers when you’re eating, and before you know it, you’ve consumed far more food than you need or intended to consume.If you can’t imagine eating without your phone nearby, ask the family to join in this resolution, even if only for a few days. Get them on board with your commitment to mindful eating, and we guarantee everyone will start enjoying the peace, quiet and conversation that follows when TV news doesn’t dominate everyone’s attention.
Consciously Slow Down Your Pace Of Eating
That means put your fork or spoon down between bites. Chew your food slowly and carefully, at least 25 or 30 times. Be aware of every smell, texture and flavour that are part of your meal. Look at your plate, and take in the colours and aromas of each mouthful of food. These are the things we often rush through or overlook entirely. To eat mindfully, you need to concentrate on every aspect of your meal.
Always Eat At The Table
Rushing around with your breakfast in one hand and your hairbrush in the other, trying to get ready for work, is a sure way to miss the joys of mindful eating.Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier, if necessary, so you can sit down at the table to enjoy your morning meal. Sip your coffee or tea, and chew your food slowly, just like you do at dinner time. Racing around swallowing big bites of toast is an excellent way to get indigestion!Every meal needs to be enjoyed slowly, not just supper. And if it’s possible, don’t grab a sandwich at your desk at lunchtime. Even 15 or 20 minutes is enough time to go outside, sandwich in hand, and find a quieter place than the office at which to eat lunch. A change of scene, like a picnic table in a park, facilitates mindful eating.
Listen To Your Body’s Hunger Cues
Just because it’s six or seven o’clock in the evening doesn’t always mean you’re ready for supper. Pay attention to the signals your body is sending – are you genuinely hungry? If you are feeding the family at a scheduled time, but you’re not very hungry because you had a big lunch with a client, for example, don’t eat just for the sake of eating. Take half portions, or feed the family and wait to have your own meal. It’s not the end of the world if you and they are occasionally on slightly different food schedules!Get them started, then sit down and talk, or do a quick workout before eating. Our point here is that mindful eating means listening to your body’s signals and never eating just for its own sake.
The Benefits Of Mindful Eating:
There are so many; where do we begin? Let’s start with the number on your scale – mindful eating can help it go down!
Paying attention to what, where, when and how you eat means you are far less likely to consume needless or excess calories. How often do you munch on a bag of chips when watching a movie on Netflix, only to suddenly realize you’ve eaten the entire bag? We’ve all done it!Mindful eating means snacking is carefully managed. There is nothing inherently wrong with snacking a little while watching TV. It’s what you eat and how much that matters. Consider an apple sliced with a tablespoon of peanut butter instead of chips. Or if it’s a salty snack you want, have nuts instead of something processed like potato chips.Mindful eating means knowing the nutritional value of food, and therefore empty calories are ditched in favour of nutritious foods. The old saying, “you are what you eat,” is still true! It dovetails perfectly with the principles behind mindful eating.
Mindful Eating Fosters Wellness
Paying attention to the food you consume helps you pay attention to your overall well-being, physically and psychologically. For example: do you notice that you eat more when you’re stressed or skip meals entirely?Learning how emotions impact your eating habits is part of mindful eating. It helps you pay attention to the circumstances that lead you to eat poorly or eat properly.Mindful eating helps you avoid binge eating, and that’s a bad habit just about everyone falls prey to occasionally. Knowing your emotional triggers around food compels you to cope with them ahead of mealtimes. And learning how to deal with those things in a healthy manner (like by working out, perhaps?) means food will stop carrying emotional weight – you will start seeing it as fuel and nothing more. And that’s how we should all view food!
Mindful Eating May Lead To Mindfulness In Other Areas
Once you have a solid grip on how and what you eat and you’re motivated to eat properly because of the positive outcomes, you may want to practice mindfulness in other areas of life. Deep breathing exercises, for example, can be part of mindfulness that helps at the office. Let’s say you lose your cool when a colleague doesn’t do their share of a group project. Letting your annoyance show isn’t always productive, right?Practising mindfulness is a smart alternative to losing your composure at work because it helps you control emotions that might not be appropriate in a professional setting. Deep breathing in a quiet place helps you regain your focus before you deal with a lazy colleague. If mindful eating leads to mindfulness in other aspects of your life, you’ll no doubt see plenty of additional benefits in those areas, too.
Mindful Eating Is “in the moment” Eating
Because practising mindfulness means you work to stay in the present and not dwell on past mistakes, you’ll let go of old dietary blunders. Did you try losing weight in January after making a New Year’s resolution, only to feel starved and wind up dropping the effort and gaining a few pounds?Mindful eating helps you let go of those past mistakes and stop being so hard on yourself for long-gone slips that can’t be corrected, but they can be forgotten. Mindful eating keeps you in the here, and now, so your focus stays on all the good and nutritious foods you’re enjoying today, rather than thinking about the French fries you gobbled down a month ago.
Mindful eating is the smart way to approach food. It doesn’t ask you to count calories, cut out carbohydrates, or even eliminate snacking while you watch a movie with your spouse on Saturday night.What it does ask you to do is pay attention to the foods you eat, slow down and enjoy every mouthful, and focus on the plate in front of you – not the plate you devoured six months ago that still makes you feel guilty. Mindful eating is part of an overall approach to wellness that helps you trim down, feel better, and maybe even get your blood pressure under control. You don’t have to buy anything to start eating mindfully – all you have to do is listen to your body, think about the nutritional value of foods, and focus on today.Think of mindful eating as a way of investing in your body’s health and well-being – and in a happier, healthier you!