Gain control over your eating habits with mindful eating.
Updated: Feb 5
Mindfulness is the ability to bring full attention and awareness to one’s experience, in the moment, without judgment. Mindful eating brings mindfulness to food choices and the experience of eating.
Mindful eating is not a diet. It is more about paying full attention to your experiences, cravings, and physical cues when eating. A craving might be a message from your body that it’s seeking a specific food to promote health and well-being, like chicken soup when you aren’t feeling well. Cravings can also be predicted by your emotions, diet, routine, and even your surroundings. These cravings can sometimes lead to unhealthy food choices.
With today’s fast living, technology disctractions and abundance of food choices, our eating habits have generally become a mindless act. Many eat in front of the television or computers, and let’s not forget our smartphones. How often do we see people on their smartphones in a restaurant and not even interacting with those they are sharing a table with?
Our eating habits have become a mindless behavior and this can be problematic, since it takes your brain up to 20 minutes to realize you’re full. If you eat too fast, the fullness signal may not arrive until you have already eaten too much. By eating too fast you are also not allowing your food to digest properly - which can lead to gut inflammation.
By eating mindfully, you restore your attention and slow down, making eating an intentional act instead of an automatic one. According to experts, you should chew softer foods 5-10 times, and more dense foods (meats/vegetables) up to 30 times before swallowing.
Mindful eating has also been shown to reduce emotional eating and help reduce cravings. Stress, fatigue, loneliness, lack of sleep and even boredom can lead to food cravings and to eat more. In these cases, food won’t solve the problem – it would be treating a symptom.
Although there are many physical and emotional feelings that may lead you to crave certain foods, fatigue and stress are most common. The more stressed people are, the more they tend to look for comfort in food – this is just one of the ways that stress leads to weight gain. Cravings for those less nutritious foods and alcohol are common.
Mindful eating gives you the skills to deal with these impulses and puts you in charge of making the distinction between true hunger and emotional eating.
How to practice mindful eating
By truly paying attention to the food you eat and how you eat is really the basic concept of mindful eating. Here are a few basic steps that you can follow to help get you there.
Come to the table hungry but not ravenous. This will help you from eating too fast which can cause digestion issues.
Focus on the food in front of you and appreciate what you are eating. Is the food you’ve chosen healthy? Does it make you feel good?
Start with a small portion. You may find that you aren’t as hungry once you’ve finished your plate.
Chew more slowly and appreciate every bite. The more you can break down your food the better it will be digested.
Eliminate distractions by bringing only food to the table. Keep the phone and/or computer off the table and the television off.
Mindful eating takes practice. The easiest practice I have found was to chew more slowly and avoid distractions while eating. Start with one meal a day and once you feel comfortable add another meal into your practice.
Simple and effective steps into mindful eating will bring great rewards to your digestive system and your overall diet. Although mindful eating is not a diet, the concept of eating slower may help you understand that you are full and won’t eat more than you need, which will help you consume less calories than before.
For more information on mindful eating, please contact health coach expert, Jackie Day at First Wave Wellness.