It’s been a busy day at work and you only have a short lunch break to order, eat, get through the million notifications on your phone, call your mum, book your doctor’s appointment, send that email and buy that thing.
So, you order for convenience and – before you know it – you’ve mindlessly zoomed through your lunch, consuming twice as many calories as you should from nutrient-poor sources. What’s more, you don’t even feel satisfied AND it’s time to head back to work.
Eating while distracted can result in poor dietary choices, excess calorie consumption, a sense of unfulfillment, and weight gain. If this sounds like you, then keep reading, and I’ll teach you the art of mindful eating.
What is mindful eating?
To understand mindful eating you must familiarise yourself with the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Derived from Eastern meditation, mindfulness has been practiced for over a thousand years to help observe and tame our thoughts and is often used as a modern therapeutic technique.
So, how can you apply mindfulness to eating?
- Eliminate distractions (e.g. television, phone or computer) and eat in a low-stimulus environment.
- Pay full attention to your senses by analysing the taste, appearance, smells, colours and textures of your food.
- Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Not only is this better for digestion, it will also give you more time to explore your senses.
- Listen to hunger cues and learn to differentiate between full and stuffed. This can take time, which is why my previous point is so important.
- Think about the macro and micronutrient make-up of the ingredients and how that helps your body to function.
- Pay attention to how the food makes you feel.
- Be grateful and appreciate the time and effort dedicated to your meal.
What are the benefits of eating mindfully?
Eating like this has many benefits, including: increasing the satisfaction you gain from your meals, improving digestion, reducing overeating or binge eating, and most importantly, improving your psychological relationship with food.
Mindful eating isn’t about judging yourself or being pessimistic about your food choices. It’s an opportunity to shift your perspective and observe your thoughts, feelings and behaviours as you eat.
Like most things, the more you do, the easier it gets. With practice, your mind will wander less and you will make deeper connections with your mind, body and food. Following these steps will help replace automatic thoughts, feelings and behaviours with more conscious and healthier ones.