Mindful eating; it’s a hot topic right now and with good reason. Despite it’s image, you don’t need to be a monk or a travelling yogi to practise it, and it benefits everyone!
In the US and UK our eating culture is far from mindful. We often grab our food on the go and eat while doing other things. Office lunches at our desks, TV dinners, breakfast on the go. In contrast, countries like France and Spain which have a culture of social eating, spend a long time eating, and consume fewer pre-packed and processed foods, also have very low rates of obesity. So there’s definitely something to be learned from them.
Despite mindfulness being a relatively new topic in the western pop culture, it is deeply routed in early Buddhism. Very simply put, mindfulness is the state of being aware and present in the moment. A lot of us struggle with this – days get chaotic, we are frequently multitasking, and we get very little down time.
This is a shame, because practising being mindful has so many benefits for our mental health. It can be used to treat stress, anxiety, pain, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, addiction, and post traumatic stress disorder, to name a few!
Eating mindfully can help with weight loss, forming healthier eating habits, prevent overeating, and prevent emotional eating!
7 steps to mindful eating
1.Cook from scratch
Preparing and cooking food yourself is the first step in eating mindfully. You control exactly what goes into your meals, and avoid the overly processed additives and sugars found in pre-packaged foods.
Serve yourself a smaller portion than you’d normally eat. A lot of people who practise mindful eating find they eat less than. You can always go back for seconds if you’re still hungry!
3. Eat at a table
Try to eat all your meals and snacks sitting at a table. A lot of us get into the habits of taking TV dinners and snacking on the go, but this often leads to overeating.
4. No distractions
Turn off the TV, put your phone away and just focus on eating. If you’re eating with family, try to have 5 minutes without talking!
5. Eat slowly
Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls, chew thoroughly, and just take your time. When we eat slowly we are better able to judge fullness before we end up overeating. In our increasingly busy lives, meals often get rushed through. But think of making time for meals as investing in your health.
Pay attention to all the sensations of eating your meal or snack. What does it look like? How does it smell? Think about how the flavours change from first bite through to the last chew. Are there bursts of flavour with each bite? What are the textures like? Can you identify each individual ingredient as you taste them?
When we savour our meals we are likely to feel more satisfied, so less likely to overeat. It also makes our meals more pleasurable!
Once you have finished eating, take a moment to just sit. Think about how you feel now compared to before you started eating. You will almost certainly feel more full! But do you also feel more content and relaxed, for example? If you have eaten something a bit too heavy or greasy you might feel slightly uncomfortable.
People who practise mindful eating often find they naturally start making healthier food choices. This is because they notice the effects different foods have on their body and mood.
Enjoy your meal!