What is Mindful Eating?
Firstly, let’s look at the meaning of the word “mindful”.
“Deliberately aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, in order to create a feeling of calm.” – Cambridge Dictionary
“Focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, especially as part of a therapeutic or meditative technique.” – Oxford Dictionaries
Both of the above are definitions of the word “mindful”, and they have one thing in common; deliberate awareness of something in the present moment. In the instance of mindful eating, this awareness is focused on your food and the emotions and sensations you feel while you eat.
Mindful eating focuses your attention on food in the moment, and it can have a wide range of positive health and lifestyle benefits. Here are some helpful tips on how to incorporate mindful eating into your daily life.
1. Start With the Grocery List
If you don’t already, write a shopping list of the groceries you need. Doing so can increase the amount of healthy foods you buy. It can also reduce the likelihood of grabbing things willy-nilly when you go shopping, only to get home and find that you didn’t get what you need and ended up with impulse buys instead (don’t worry, this happens to all of us).
Next time you head to the grocery store, do so mindfully. It could not only help save time and money, but also increase the amount of healthy and nutritious foods you purchase.
2. Chew Your Food
The period before food enters the stomach is known as the cephalic phase of digestion. It begins with the thought, sight, or smell of food and continues in the mouth with the taste, texture, and chewing of food until it reaches the stomach. This phase elicits the secretion of stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes needed for digestion, transportation, and utilization of nutrients further down the line.1
Mindfully chewing your food and taking smaller bites can aid in digestion. By properly chewing your food, you are breaking it down into smaller particles making it easier for digestion in the stomach and intestines.
3. Listen To Your Body
Mindful eating can aid in promoting weight management as well-as-weight loss. Instead of limiting your food intake or only eating certain foods as one may on a diet, mindful eating encourages listening to your body and properly understanding its hunger and satiety cues.
Current research suggests that there is a positive connection between mindful eating and weight loss. 2, 3 As discussed above, slowing down and being mindful about your meal can help you recognize when you are full. It takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. Thus, when you eat slowly, it allows apt time for your brain to recognize when you are satiated.
Mindful eating can help you identify whether the food choices you make are nutritious and good for your body. Before you make a decision to eat a certain food, ask yourself why you are eating it and if it is going to benefit your health.
In short, eating mindfully can aid in weight-management and weight-loss by helping you intentionally make better food choices, eat slower, consume smaller portions, and feel satisfied after a meal.
4. Don’t Skip Meals
Another mindful eating tip regarding weight-management and weight-loss is to not skip meals, which can lead to overeating at the next meal due to hunger from the missed meal. To avoid having to potentially skip a meal, plan and prepare your meals in advance. If you are going out for an extended period of time and aren’t home to prepare food, you could pack a meal in a reusable container such as a glass jar or bento box. Check out our recipes for some inspiration!
Additionally, it’s helpful to always have a healthy snack with you wherever you go. This help stave off hunger in the moment and prevent rushing and overeating at the next meal in an attempt to put a grumbling stomach at ease.
5. Curb Cravings and Compulsive Eating
According to the findings of a research study done in 2018, it is “suggested that greater amount of mindfulness practice can lead to increased behavioral flexibility, which, in turn, might help overcome compulsive eating in clinical populations.” It has also been found that practicing mindful eating can reduce the occurrences of binge eating, emotional eating, and eating in response to external cues.4, 5
It may even be helpful to keep a food journal for a while. Doing so can potentially help you identify if there are certain individuals, places, or situations that trigger cravings. A food journal can also help identify bad eating habits which could include eating out of boredom, eating when someone else is, or just because there is food lying around.
Keeping a journal and practicing mindful eating can help you identify if you are eating in response to emotions, triggers, boredom, or whether it is because you are actually hungry.
6. Reduce Stress and Increase Gratitude
Take a few minutes before each meal to reflect on and express gratitude for your meal and those who helped prepare it. You can also take this time to let go of any stressful or negative thoughts you might be dwelling on. These precious quiet moments will help you go into a meal with a positive, stress free attitude, and you will be more appreciative and thankful for your food and others.
Additionally, when practicing mindful eating engage all of your senses where appropriate (sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound). Engaging your senses to experience the taste, textures, flavor, smells, and even sound of food can help increase appreciation and satisfaction of a meal.
7. Eliminate Distractions
Have you ever sat down to a meal, only to be distracted by your phone or the TV? Next thing you know your plate is empty, and you wonder where the food went.
Next time you sit down to have a meal, or even a simple snack, get rid of distractions. Put down your cellphone, push your work aside, or turn off the TV for a few moments so you can practice mindful eating, paying attention to your food and not something else.
Pay Attention to Your Food!
Next time you sit down to eat a meal or a snack, try practicing mindful eating and deliberately focus your attention on your food.
Being mindful when you are eating can potentially help improve digestion, promote weight-management, aid weight loss, recognize hunger and satiety cues, curb cravings and compulsive eating, reduce stress, and increase gratitude.