What is mindful eating you ask? We've talked a bit about mindfulness recently (if you missed that blog post, take a moment now and check it out. : ) ), but how do we apply that to what and how we eat?
Mindful eating is the idea and practice of becoming more AWARE of our choices and situations around food, rather than just reacting to them. It means that we are using all of our senses, physical and emotional, to experience and enjoy the food choices we're making.
A large part of mindful eating is becoming more aware of how our particular food and drink choices make us feel. Do we feel tired, sluggish and drained after eating or drinking something, or energetic? Do we feel bloated, gassy, uncomfortable or have pain after we eat? Do we feel anxious, have shame, guilt or a down mood after consuming something or in certain social or food situations? Those are all important things to notice when we're consuming something.
Not only does mindful eating encourage us to become more aware of how food and drink make us feel and make choices that are nourishing, satisfying and make us feel good, but it also discourages judgement around those behaviors and choices. Judgement can lead to shame, anxiety and depressed mood, which can have a negative impact in our choices going forward...especially if we struggle with emotional eating.
Mindful eating has been shown to help aid with weight loss, reduce binge eating and improve our overall sense of well-being. Here are some tips on how you can become a more mindful eater.
Tips for Mindful Eating...
Prepare to eat. Emotions are tied to eating, but we often don't notice it. Start to recognize your emotions and how they affect your food choices.
Breathe and Relax. Sit comfortably and don’t rush through your meal. Take a moment and be thankful for the food you're about to eat. This prepares the body for the rest-and-digest phase.
Notice what’s on your plate. If we aren’t aware of what we’re eating, it can lead to overeating. Notice all the things about the food you’re eating, including the colors, textures and amount of food on your plate. Pay attention to how it smells, tastes and how it makes you feel as you eat.
Chew thoroughly. Chewing 20 times before swallowing is ideal, but I think is hard for many of us to do! I suspect I'm not the only one who has family members who eat an entire meal in less than 5 minutes. Take some time to enjoy the bursts of flavor as you chew, as well as how it makes you feel.
Eat slowly. Enjoy what you’re eating and don’t rush through your meal. Again, living busy lives can definitely impact how fast we're eating. Many of us rush through meals to get to the next thing. Remember, digestion begins with chewing, and chewing and swallowing are the only parts of digestion that we can control.
Stop when you are full. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to recognize that we’ve had enough. Take some time to consider if you need that second helping. Drink some water. Often times our bodies are craving water and hydration, not more food.
Make eating a separate activity. Try to avoid reading, working or watching TV while you’re eating. Eating while doing another activity, especially while watching TV, can cause us to overeat or make poor food choices. Treat meal times as a not only a time to nourish your body, but also your mind and spirit.
Don't skip meals. Going too long between meals can increase the risk of strong hunger, which may lead to the quickest and easiest food choice, but not always a healthful one. If you are doing intermittent fasting, and it's working for you, this doesn't apply to you : )
Focus on eating a more plant based diet. Plant based eating is not only better for you, but it's better for the planet. Production of animal based foods like meat and dairy takes a heavier toll on our environment. Processed meat and saturated fats are also associated with an increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
And just like mindfulness, mindful eating is a practice. It's something we have to be intentional about and work at. We will have good days and days when we really struggle with it. That's ok. It's important to acknowledge those days or moments, learn from them and then let them go so we can get up and try again.