You’ve probably done it before. Eaten your lunch in a rush and then wondered a few minutes later where it all went and how it actually tasted. When it comes to eating during mealtimes, many of us could benefit from the practice known as ‘mindful eating’.
So, what is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is predominately about bringing your focus to what you are actually doing in that very moment – eating. And who doesn’t like thinking about eating, right? The aim is to pay attention to what is going on inside and around you whilst you are enjoying that delicious meal you’ve whipped up. Its predominant purpose is to heighten your awareness and senses, providing you with as much satisfaction whilst eating as possible. Mindful eating provides you with control and aids you in enjoying those gorgeous flavours and textures as much as possible.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
First and foremost, mindful eating can be used as a great awareness tool. It can assist in identifying possible unhealthy behaviour patterns surrounding food, such as overeating or eating out of boredom. Creating that positive relationship with food is so important for a variety of reasons relating to your health goals, such as the promotion of weight loss. This is due to mindful eating creating hunger cues, encouraging the eating process to be slowed down and paid more attention too. It can help with constant, unnecessary snacking when you are bored or out of habit. It allows questions to be answered such as ‘what am I consuming?’ and ‘does it fuel me and make me feel good?’
Mindful eating, of course, allows for a greater appreciation for food as well. Slowing down the process and not rushing through a meal allows for flavours to be savoured and for the experience to be enjoyed. And this is always a good thing, right?
How can you try out mindful eating?
With any new change in behaviour, taking it slow is the way to go! Start by choosing one meal per day, or even per week to eat mindfully. Before eating stop for a moment and check-in with yourself. Consider how you are feeling and ask yourself questions like:
- Am I hungry?
- Am I thirsty?
- Am I stressed? Bored? Worried? Rushed?
Often, we start eating because our minds compel us too, which is often the case when we reach for food for comfort, a distraction or because we are bored. By tuning in to your body more, eating just when you are actually feeling those stomach grumbles or when mealtime has arrived, you will gradually become better at knowing your real hunger cues in comparison to emotional ones.
Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” Then follow up with, “If I am feeling this way and I eat this food, how will it help me feel better? How will I feel after it?” It is a great idea, also, to come to the table with some hunger, but not overly hungry.
Is mindful eating about distraction removal?
Removing distractions is one of the best ways to help yourself achieve extremely positive mindful eating. Remove distractions from your table or from the room in which you eat. The simplest, yet most important distraction you can get rid of whilst eating are our screens. Turn off the TV, put your phone on do not disturb and simply enjoy your yummy food. Often, we multitask whilst eating, causing extreme distraction and lack of connection to our food. Whether we are working, driving, reading, watching TV or scrolling through our phones, we aren’t fully aware of what is going into our bodies to nourish and fuel us.
Mealtimes can be a welcome change to the chockablock pace of your day, so take the time and opportunity to slow it down. Chew your food slowly, take smaller bites and savour the flavours and textures on your plate. Try and pause between mouthfuls… no, no one is going to steal it from you. You could even see how long it takes you to eat a full meal. Try and make it a good 20 minutes or so.
Eating mindfully and spending more time chewing can actually improve digestion and help your body absorb as many nutrients up as possible. And, if you’re trying to watch those calories, then pop the serving bowls and leftovers out of sight in the kitchen so you’re less likely to go back for seconds. This will also keep you focused on your own plate.
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