What is Mindful Eating?
Being mindful means being fully engaged in what you’re doing; it’s a thoughtful practice which allows you to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Eating mindfully is very similar, allowing you to be fully present in your eating habits and your relationship with food. This can bring awareness to what you’re eating and how you eat it.
There are many benefits to you from mindful eating, which come with consistency and practice. Some may want to be more mindful with their eating habits to break out of that binge eating cycle while others may want to enjoy their food more and enhance their senses. Like being mindful in everyday life, mindful eating is thought to improve general wellbeing and health.
Here are some of the most obvious and rewarding benefits of mindful eating:
- Reduces stress
- Improves digestion
- Increases enjoyment while eating
- Increases sensitivity to tastes and smells
- Learn when you’re truly full
- Control emotional eating
- Helps to control binge eating and food cravings
- Helps you feel more satisfied from eating
- Discover which foods you enjoy the most
- Discover physical cues for hunger and satisfaction
- Discover individual body signals
How Start Eating Mindfully
Starting to eat mindfully is more complex than it sounds. It sounds like ‘enjoy your food and think about it while doing so’, but it takes more steps than this, and more time. It may start with a small snack, like a piece of fruit, such as some grapes, raisins or strawberries before you gradually increase your practice to mindfully eat your entire dinner. Here are some simple first steps you can do to start practising mindful eating today:
1. Eat More Slowly
We often don’t chew our food enough, which puts stresses on our bodies to break down food further and reduces the nutrients we get from food. Mindful eating often starts by focusing on this aspect of eating, by chewing food adequately and spending more time eating our food. We should be chewing our food about 30 times before swallowing it! Doing this allows us to enhance the flavours of our food by breaking it down properly.
It also helps to begin the digestive process by exposing food to the enzymes in our mouth and puts less pressure on our stomach and intestines to break down unchewed food. It sounds gross but a very important part of digestion which allows us to get as many useful nutrients as possible!
Eating more slowly also allows us to listen to our body cues more intently. It takes our bodies a little time to recognise that we are full, and we usually continue eating before we realise that! Eating more slowly allows us to recognise fullness before over-eating. Over time and with practice, stopping those extra few minutes of overeating can help us eat intuitively for our bodies. After all, eating the right amount for our individual bodies is the goal!
2. Eat Without Distractions
A lot of us eat in front of the TV, our laptops or while scrolling on our phones. These distractions takeaway our focus from eating all that amazing food. Turn of for put away any distractions and focus wholly on each bite. Eating deserves your full attention; it’s how we fuel and nourish our bodies!
Multitasking while eating also encourages us to eat more quickly without realising which can lead to impaired digestion and sometimes even eating more than we need to. Distractions also subdue our body cues, preventing us from listening to signals of fullness and satisfaction. Instead of these distractions, try eating at a table with family and friends and hold a good conversation.
Discussing what you’re eating, how it was prepared, recipes and meal ideas is always a great way to stay focused on your food and brings people together. Mindless eating often includes eating alone in isolated places and mindful eating is quite the opposite. This practice can help bring a new appreciation for your meals and nutritious food.
3. Let Your Body Determine What to Eat
Listen to your body! After all it is your body that needs all this food and it gives you indications all the time on what it needs. Mindless eating ignores all the cues from your body and overtime you learn to ignore them. With mindful eating you can relearn the signals your body gives you to tell you you’re hungry or full. For example, only eat when you’re hungry. But what is being hungry? It isn’t craving food or emotional eating or just eating because it’s the right time of day or for the sake of it.
Eating when you are hungry means eating when your energy levels are low, when your stomach rumbles or begins to feel empty. This also includes stopping eating when you’re truly full. Knowing when you’re full is a skill that comes with listening intently to your body over time. Feelings of fullness can include a full feeling between your stomach and chest as well as beginning to feel satisfied from your meal.
Usually around 20 minutes of eating makes the average person feel full. Some cues might include needing to take deep breathes between bites, adjusting your trousers, needing a drink before you continue eating, needing a break before you finish your plate etc. These are all signs that you’re already full and you don’t need to finish everything on your plate, maybe what you have already eaten is enough for your body and it will let you know!
Mindful eating is a powerful tool that can help you learn more and love your body as well as giving you a new appreciation for healthy foods and your favourite meals. With practice, it can help transform your diet and perspective, allowing you to see amazing changes to your health and body.
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