‘Mindful Eating’ in simple words is learning to pay attention while eating. It is an art and practice of mindfulness.
You may think, what is in it to explain. I do know what I eat and how I eat. No, it is not just knowing what and how you eat. It goes far beyond merely slowing down or removing distractions while you eat.
You can imagine yourselves walking up to your refrigerator and picking up some leftovers. You eat them watching a movie or having a conversation over dinner. You will be having lunch while working at your desk or attending a phone call. Whatever is the case, all these are examples of mindless eating.
In the perspective article I would be describing the following –
- How to step out of mindless eating patterns
- How to cultivate mindfulness
- How can mindful eating help you?
Stepping out of mindless eating patterns
No matter how much aware you become about your eating patterns, it can always trip up because we are all humans.
- Remember that you are always geared towards your convenience, the simple act of over effort can reduce over eating. Eastern Illinois University researchers conducted an experiment which showed ‘In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nuts.’ 1Make low calorie food your convenient option. When you go for grocery shopping replace a box of crackers with some fresh organic apples. Let your counter top have a bowl of apples rather than a box of crackers.
- Try keeping food out of reach. It is okay if you have snacks for munching in refrigerator and cupboard. But, avoid them in your office desk, car and counter top where you spend most of the day. Having food out makes it more convenient and prompts you to eat more. Make a list of foods that trigger you the most like ice cream, chocolates, pastries etc. and remove them from your refrigerator and cupboards. Out of sight can slowly lead to out of mind.
- Downsize your plate. If you have the habit of eating in a large plate, there is a natural tendency to have more calories. Choose a small plate while you eat and keep your larger plates for fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t eat your emotions. I have heard people saying I eat when I am bored, or I eat when I am stressed. No, eating is not a hobby or leisure time activity. When you are bored, draw a picture or go out walking.
- Avoid eating out in restaurants instead try preparing meals at home. If you have noticed while you eat out you feel extremely full. Larger portion sizes have become norm in restaurants. Even if you are going to restaurant, share your main course with a friend or order an appetizer as your main meal. You can even eat a healthy snack or whole fruit before you go out to eat.
Mindfulness offers an inside out approach. We usually eat based on other people, the time of the day, the weather etc. Most of us don’t eat when we feel hungry or maybe we don’t even let our body feel what hunger is. For example, you might have had your breakfast at 10 am and your friend called out for having lunch. Before the food digest, you will go for a buffet lunch.
In order to cultivate mindfulness, you need to practice the following –
- Cultivate a healthy relationship with food
- Choose healthy foods mindfully
- Feel good in your body, mind and spirit
How to cultivate a healthy relationship with food and choose healthy foods mindfully?
- Take time to appreciate what is on the plate. While enjoying the taste, enjoy the vision and smell of food as well. Indulge yourself completely in food. If you follow this, chances to overeat are less. You will feel completely satisfied over a meal.
- Allot time for your favorite foods. It is okay to have cheese cake as your favorite dessert. But make sure the time you allot for cheese cake when you are not hungry. This trick will help you enjoy your food, without over eating.
- Eat when you are hungry. As I have already explained make sure you eat when you are hungry and not when you crave food. If you know it is craving or boredom that causes hunger, try calling a friend or read a magazine. Even you can take a calming bath or pamper yourself with a pedicure.
- Stop keeping tempting food in the house.
- Choose snacks mindfully. Snack and treat is different. For snacking include nuts, pumpkin seeds, whole fruits, hardboiled egg, Greek yoghurt, Cottage cheese etc.
The key to living a healthy lifestyle is balance. If you are too rigid, restrictive or strict about nutritious eating you could be setting yourself up to fail. Sustainability is the key. If you start practicing eating healthy, follow it with all your heart. Reward and forgive when needed.
Advantages of Mindful eating
- Better digestion and absorption of nutrients
Food needs to be broken down into very small pieces to be absorbed through incredibly small passages in our small intestine. When you eat with awareness, you chew your food thoroughly and won’t over eat which makes the job of the enzymes in the small intestine easy and thereby aiding in better digestion and assimilation.
- Reduces food cravings
Many times, we might eat for reasons other than being actually hungry including boredom, eating because other people are eating, and we want to join in, eating to help deal with emotion, or eating just because it’s a certain time of the day. Mindful eating makes us more aware of the reasons behind cravings and helps us stop that.
- Helps in weight loss
When you are aware of what and how you eat, you will feel satiety and fullness fast and would never over eat. As you enjoy and thoroughly chew the food, digestion and assimilation will also be proper resulting in reduced body weight.
- Being mindful can bring about better management of your emotions. You will feel good in body, mind and spirit
Article prepared by – Arya Krishna