There has been so much talk about mindful eating in the health community lately and I for one, am so excited about this. So many of us are going through each day mindlessly snacking and eating, either because we’re just so busy or because we’re emotionally overwhelmed.
When we are eating mindlessly, we tend to gravitate towards the easy processed foods that are already made, packaged, and just waiting for us to buy them, simply because they take little to no thought. However, this form of eating can have many negative effects, the most obvious being weight gain from excessive calorie intake.
I personally dealt with this for years, between disordered eating and a bad emotional state I was an absolute wreck. I would go days without eating and not realizing it, or I’d binge eat throughout the day because I was starving after not fueling myself for so long, but I wouldn’t understand the fact that I was full. This happened simply because I never took the time top stop what I was doing to just sit down and have a meal, to me food was just a hassle and a waste of my time, I had better things to worry about.
How do you know if you’re in a cycle of mindless eating?
· You are just eating without thinking about it
· Often eating at random times throughout the day and/or skipping meals
· Constant snacking even when you’re not hungry; head hunger
· Only eating when you “feel” like it
· Eating foods based on how comforting they feel to you
· Emotionally eating; stressed out, sad, or bored
· Not putting any thought into where your food comes from
· Eating quickly, as if you’re in a hurry
· Eating past the feeling of fullness
· Eating with distractions; movie, T.V., computer, etc.
· Never feeling satisfied when eating
· Feeling compelled to completely clean off your plate, even if you don’t want the rest of your food
· Continuously letting stress get the best of you; stress can cause more emotional eating
So, what is mindful eating and how do we change our mindset to become more aware of how we nourish our bodies?
Well first off, mindful eating is in no way a diet in any way, shape or form, instead, mindful eating is a meditative form of nourishing your body. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps to manage your physical and emotional sensations, bringing a state of full awareness to your actions.
Using a mindful approach when eating brings that awareness to the way you experience your cravings and the physical cues you have when consuming food. Using this awareness can change anything and everything, all we need to do is take notice of our body and understand the signals it gives us.
Mindful eating has many benefits, such as;
· Making healthier food choices
· More enjoyable mealtimes
· Better digestion and absorption of nutrients
· The ability to feel the signals your body sends telling you you’re full; no more overeating
· Creates a deeper connection between body and mind
· Develops a greater relationship with your natural appetite
· Great rehabilitation for emotional eaters
· Greater understanding of how the food on your plate came to be there
· Makes mealtimes an actual break; no more exhausting multitasking
· Greater appreciation for the food in front of you
Who wouldn’t want that greater connection to themselves in form of mind, body and spirit, especially when all it takes is slowing down and taking notice?
I thought this mindful eating thing was a complete load of horse shit when I first heard of it almost 2 years ago, but once I took the chance to actually sit, read about it and start practicing it, I was pleasantly surprised at how effective it is. In only a month of practicing mindful eating, I went from horribly disordered eating, to looking forward to that time where I could just sit and enjoy a meal, loving the emotional and physical responses and the awareness I now have each time I fuel my body.
Now, mindful eating has become almost a second nature to me where I can just sit with my food and open my awareness into myself.
Here are a few tips on becoming a mindful eater that helped me:
1. Drink a sip of water between each bite of food
This is not only an amazing way to keep hydrated throughout the day, but it also allows your body to digest the food better and slows down the pace at which you eat.
2. Slow down and actually chew/taste the food you’re eating
Chew! Most of us don’t really do it, we chew a few times and then swallow the food practically whole and in doing this we don’t really taste the food we’re eating. So, take your time, chew each bite at least twenty times and notice all the different taste elements of the food. Take in the experience that the food gives you.
3. Sit down to eat
When you’re constantly on the go grabbing food and eating it on the way to the next task, you’re not really paying enough attention to the food you’re ingesting, therefore you tend to think you’re hungry later on when in reality you’re not. Sit down, pay attention to the food in front of you take time to enjoy it and listen to how your body is feeling as you eat.
4. Give thanks to the food you’re about to eat for nourishing your body and to those who aided in its journey
This is a step that not very many people think of. When we sit down for a meal, many of us may say prayers or give thanks to a higher power for the food on our plate, but what about the food itself, what about the people that worked so hard for it to get to you?
When you sit down for a meal or snack next, thank that food for nourishing your body and thank everyone who worked so hard for you to be able to eat it. It doesn’t have to be out loud; you can give a silent thanks in your head, just make sure to give attention to all that had to happen for you to have the opportunity to enjoy it.
5. Ask yourself, am I actually hungry or am I just thinking I am?
When we mindlessly munch throughout the day it can cause some confusion when it comes to telling if we’re truly hungry or not. Many times, we just think its been a while since we ate so our thought process goes directly to “I’m hungry, I need something to eat”, but are you really?
To get past the brain hunger and tune into the true body hunger a good tip is to drink some water and then wait a few minutes, listen to your body instead of your mind and notice the signals it gives you. If the water satisfied the urge to eat, then you weren’t actually hungry, instead you could have been thinking you were hungry because you couldn’t remember when last in the chaos of the day you ate, or you just needed some water.
6. Eat without distractions (T.V., computer, reading etc.)
A big contributor to mindless eating is the fact that we eat while distracted, whether in front of a T.V., scrolling through social media, working on a computer, the list goes on, it`s as if we feel the constant need to be entertained. When our minds are focused on something other than eating its so much easier to overeat and for our minds to think we haven’t eaten later in the day.
7. Eat in silence for one meal or snack a day
At least once a day, sit and eat in silence. Take this time not only to enjoy your food but to tune into your body with absolutely no distractions and get to know all the ways your body feels as you eat. The way the food tastes, the way your body signals that you’re getting full, notice how you feel emotionally when you’re eating – this is a great thing for emotional eaters – are you happy or sad? What are the thoughts that come to you as you eat? Don’t try to solve anything, just notice them and take in the sensations that you feel.
To change our mindset to become more mindful, we need to become more aware, more aware of our bodies and what they’re telling us, more aware of the food we fuel ourselves with, and more aware of where the food we consume comes from.
This method of eating has created a great calmness in my life and benefited me by pushing me towards becoming the healthiest version of myself. I hope that it can do the same for you.
Do you already practice mindful eating? Leave a comment and let us know what your favorite mindful practice is!