As our lives get busier and we become more and more attached to things like our Smartphones there is less and less time that we are not contactable or that we are fully concentrating on one task alone. Dinner time is no longer about the food being served and catching up with family members’ days, but about Tweeting what you’re about to have for dinner and Instagramming what you did have for dinner whilst watching TV and checking Facebook. With our attention pulled in so many directions at once how can we be fully mindful of what we are eating? How can we even enjoy what we are eating or realise how much we are eating?
The truth is many of us are no longer aware of what we are putting in our mouths and are so completely out of tune with our own bodies that we don’t even recognise when we are hungry anymore.
Firstly, what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being aware of your surrounding environment, thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Mindfulness brings your attention to thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong.
So what about mindful eating?
Eat with intention and attention! This is when we employ the above strategies to be mindful when we are eating. Read on if you want to learn more!
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1: When you eat just eat!
Remove any distractions from the eating environment. Put away electronics and eat at a table instead of in front of the TV. Distractions cause us to be unmindful. We are no longer aware of our surroundings, we are bombarded by messages from the TV/computer/phone which means we are no longer in tune with our feelings and thoughts, often leading us to misjudge or override our satiety signals which can lead to overeating.
2: Take time with your food
(image source: www.wholify.com)
Don’t rush! Chew food slowly and appreciate the flavour combinations. It takes approximately 20 minutes for our brains to register that our stomachs are full. If we chuck a meal down quickly without paying attention to what we are eating we are more likely to reach for a second portion without actually needing it. Before you know it you are stuffed and reaching for your stretchy pants…
3: Don’t eat on auto
Give eating 100% of your attention. Don’t try to write an assignment whilst eating/ eat your lunch at your computer. Take a proper break. Not only will this allow you to concentrate on your food fully and allow you to appreciate it, but it promotes healthier work practices and bodies, resetting your mind for increased productivity.
4: How hungry are you really?
Use a scale of 1-10 to rate your feelings of hunger. Do you ever even experience physical hunger anymore? Try not to eat unless you are slightly hungry and stop eating when you are content. Avoid feeling starved or over stuffed. Using a scale to ask yourself how hungry are you really, can be a useful tool to become more in tune with your body’s cues and help to ensure you are eating for the right reasons, i.e. you are actually physically hungry.
5: Why do you want to eat?
This can be a tough one for some. And again it comes back to the physical cues of hunger. Are you actually hungry or are you just bored? Is there something else you are feeling that is making you want to eat? Are you sad or upset about something? Has something happened to make you angry? If this is the case, now is not the time for food. Food will not take those feelings away, and could enhance them. You may feel more upset with yourself after eating, making you feel angrier and hooking yourself into a cycle of bad feeling with food. Find an alternative way to vent your emotions or take your mind off things. Allowing yourself to experience your feelings instead of hiding from them with food is part of being a mindful eater.
6: Use all of your senses
Eating should be an enjoyable experience. Look at the food on your plate, savour the aroma as your food is cooking, take the time to experience the different textures in your meal as well as the flavours.
7: Think mindfully about food
Think positively about food and appreciate food. Food is not the enemy. When you think badly of food a poor relationship develops, just as it would if you constantly thought badly of relationships you have with those close to you. Instead, learn to think about the benefits of good foods; how food is needed to fuel your body and how it provides the essential nutrients you need to stay healthy.
As Hipocrates said “Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.”
What to do next?
Start by practicing to eat mindfully at least once a day.
* Do nothing but eat for five minutes – this means turning the screens off and the senses on
* Pay attention to the smell, taste and texture
* Appreciate the food and where it came from
* Chew slowly and ENJOY
If you can incorporate some of these concepts into your lifestyle you will start to form a more positive relationship with food, and learn to recognise your body’s own cues helping to eliminate emotional eating and unneeded calories. This will promote healthy eating, weight control and a new found love and respect for food!