Now more than ever before with the pace of the world seeming only to quicken, we need to take more deep breaths, connect back with our body’s own innate intelligence and become more curious when it comes to our food and eating.
And we can do this through mindful eating. Before we dive into the 5 steps to achieving this, let's make sure we are on the same page regarding exactly what we are talking about when we say mindful eating.
What is mindful eating?
Eating mindfully is an area of mindfulness defined as the practice of cultivating an open-minded awareness of how food preparation, eating environments and the food we choose to eat affects one's body, feelings, mind, and the environment around us.
It is about being present and fully aware of your senses, hunger and satiety cues and acknowledging your responses to food and eating, both emotionally and physically.
Simply acknowledging the many sensations and thought responses that come up as we eat. However, this applies to more than the act of eating itself, incorporating mindfulness principles into the entire eating experience, and all of the bites in between.
In short, mindful eating is eating with intention whilst paying attention.
Benefits of mindful eating
When practiced regularly the benefits of mindful eating include;
- Weight loss
- Reduced Stress
- Less binge eating
- Increased enjoyment of meals
- Being present for loved ones
- Reduced calorie intake
- Easier digestion
When we are aware of our thoughts and behaviours around food and eating, we can ultimately influence what goes into our mouths, how much we eat and how we feel afterwards, both physically and emotionally.
As a result we get more satisfaction and nourishment from our food, transform our relationships with food and find freedom and a greater sense of control.
Start practicing mindful eating to lose weight, take control of your calorie intake or reduce your overall stress.
What the difference between mindfulness and mindful eating?
The difference is that the practice adopts the principles of mindfulness and applies them to every aspect of food and eating; from food selection, cooking, to the act of eating itself, whereas mindfulness covers every aspect of our lives.
Eating mindfully is mindfulness applied to all things food, from food preparation to eating!
Now that you’ve got an understanding about what mindful eating is and the importance of practicing it on a daily basis, let’s lay out 5 steps to start incorporating this practice into your life.
5 Steps to Mindful Eating
Make the time
Make time to sit down and unplug, schedule each meal time, or if you eat intuitively be sure to clear your calendar when you recognise hunger present. Turn off the TV, stop scrolling on social media, no texting or phone calls. Step away from technology completely, eat at the table and focus your attention and awareness on the meal.
Take the timeEat slowly and chew your food well. Be mindful of the ingredients you've used, where they have come from and how they benefit your mind, body and soul. Avoid eating on the run at all cost, if you must, try to take the time to make the time even on the run to really slow down and chew your food well. This optimises digestion and will help your body respond to natural satiety cues.
Mindfully engage all of your five sensesMindful eating is a pleasurable, sensory experience. Take time to notice and feel all of the aromas, textures, sounds, flavours and colours of the food in front of you. Be Mindful of the atmosphere, the company you are keeping, what is happening in the present moment. This allows you to be fully present and get the most enjoyment, pleasure out of your food.
Ask yourself, “Am I actually physically hungry?”If you’re a mindless snacker or tend to eat for boredom or out of habit, take a moment to connect with your body and ask yourself if it’s physical hunger you’re really feeling. So often we think we’re hungry, when in fact we may just need a glass of water, a few deep breaths or a quick ten minute break outside in the sunshine. Sit with your feelings and ask yourself what you really need in that moment. Rather than accepting the social norm to eat at designated meal times, check in with your intuition and eat only if you truly need to.
Be supported to keep on trackTechnology makes it easier than ever before to have the support you need to stay mindful. Take full control of accountability in the palm of your hands. Download a mindfulness app, such the Smiling Mind app and choose our Mindful Eating program to get started!
Now you know the steps we invite you to implement these the next time you eat.
How do I know if I'm eating mindfully?
Once you've followed the five steps above, you can then take things one step further and begin to recognise the emotions and physical sensations that come up during and after the eating experience, in a state of calm, without holding judgement.
To check in to see if you are eating mindfully ask yourself;
- How do I feel about my food, the way I prepared it and the ingredients I used?
- Why am I eating right now?
- How am I feeling about eating right now?
- How is the environment affecting my eating experience?
- Am I present in the moment or thinking of other things?
We also become aware of what drives our hunger and decisions around food and food choices. Do we eat for pleasure or are we stressed? Is it physical hunger, or are we bored? Asking questions and making the distinction can dramatically influence our food choices in that given moment, which can have a vast impact on our mood, energy levels and productivity for the rest of the day.
What's the opposite to mindful eating?
This is where the majority of people before encountering the practice of mindfulness will find themselves. It's called the practice of mindless eating. Sounds scary right? Let’s look at mindless eating for a moment. What does that look like?
Mindless eating is the opposite of mindful eating. It’s being completely unaware of how much you’re eating, what’s in the food and your reasoning for eating it. It’s reaching for the second (or third) cookie, only to realise the packet is empty and wondering where they’ve all gone?
Or to suddenly finish eating only to realise that you were too busy scrolling Instagram to remember eating it. Most people can probably relate to this. We’re all human and we’ve all done it.
Each time you find yourself mindless eating, pay close attention to the situation, your emotions and what you were doing directly before mindlessly eating. Make the choice with yourself for the next time you eat to be mindful. Making mindful eating a habit is highly recommended.
According to habit forming research it takes around 66 days or 198 meals to really embed a new habit. If this seems like a mountain of meals hard to surmount, get support from our free Smiling Mind mindfulness app and stay on track. Your body and mind will thank you.
We will also feature top tips and excellent habits to form when mindful eating in future blog posts to help keep you on track and feeling fantastic.
Incorporating mindfulness meditation in addition to eating mindfully is a great way to calm the mind when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or triggered. We can feel extremely vulnerable during these states and often turn to food as a way to medicate or comfort ourselves.
Give it a go, and check back for more tips and tricks to keep you mindful!