What is Mindful Eating?
“Mindful eating is maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink you put into your body, observing rather than judging how the food makes you feel and the signals your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness” (Mindful Eating). Mindful eating is a method of changing behaviour practices based on Zen Buddhism and encourages you to acknowledge and accept your feelings and thoughts. In our current lifestyle mealtimes have become a rushed affair, we are either eating in the car while we commute to work, or in front of our desk computer, or lazily by the TV--the constant distraction doesn’t allow us to fully connect with our hunger signals and experience of eating. In fact, most of the time we regularly eat for reasons other than hunger to satisfy emotional needs, relieve stress, or cope with intense emotions such as sadness, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom.
“Mindfulness is a process-oriented, rather than an outcome-driven, behaviour. It is based on an individual’s experience of the moment” (Nelson, 2017). The individual focuses on appreciating the experience of food and is not concerned with restricting intake.
Mindful eating isn’t about being perfect, eating the “right” foods, or restricting your calories. Instead it encourages you to focus on your senses and being present while you shop, cook, serve, and eat your food. While mindfulness may not work for everybody many people find eating this way allows you to become more in tune with your body. This discourages you from overeating, change your dietary habits, which in turn supports your mental and physical well-being.
Mindful eating has little to do with calories, fat, protein or carbohydrates. The purpose is not to lose weight (however this can be an outcome) but to help people appreciate food and urge their full presence while eating. It’s used to treat many conditions such as disordered eating, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and binge eating (Bjarnadottir).
What is Mindless Eating
Most of the times the disconnect between your food and body comes when you’re mindlessly eating or eating for emotional hunger rather than physical hunger. Unsure if you’re mindless eating? Here are a few examples to let you decide whether you’re eating without paying attention:
You may be overeating until you feel sick or uncomfortable.
You nibble on a variety of food without absorbing the flavours.
You rush through your meals with urgency.
You don’t pay attention to the foods on your plate.
You are distracted by a device.
You don’t remember the taste, smell or flavour of the dish you’ve just eaten (Beech).
Benefits of Mindful Eating
While paying close attention to how you feel when you eat which include the textures, tastes, your hunger and fullness signals, and how different foods affect your energy and mood-you can understand your food and experience of eating. Practicing mindful eating encourages:
Improved digestion because you’re eating slower.
Focus on how foods make you feel which encourages you to make healthier choices.
Changes your relationship with food and helps you notice when you turn to food for other reasons than physical hunger.
Allows you to derive greater pleasure from the foods you eat as you slow down and appreciate your meals.
Understand and take an interest as to where your food is coming from and how it’s being procured.
How to Start Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a different journey for everyone, there is no finish line rather it’s about being attuned to your body, paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues, satisfaction, and bringing all your senses to the plate. Here are a few tips to get your started with mindful eating.
Come to the table with an appetite-but not when insatiably hungry.
Start with a small portion, you can always take a second helping.
Appreciate your food, take a minute to express your gratitude.
Bring all your senses to the meal, be attentive to colour, texture, and aromas.
Take small bites, it allows you to taste all the flavours and ingredients.
Chew thoroughly until you can taste the essence of the food.
Eat slowly and mindfully, enjoy the taste of your meal.
Beech, S. (n.d.). Mindful Eating. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://psychprofessionals.com.au/mindful-eating/
Bjarnadottir, A. (n.d.). Mindful Eating 101 - A Beginner's Guide. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mindful-eating-guide#what-it-is
Mindful Eating. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/mindful-eating.htm#:~:text=Mindful eating is maintaining an,taste, satisfaction, and fullness.
Nelson, J. B. (2017, August 1). Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Retrieved from https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/3/171
Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). 8 steps to mindful eating. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating