Mindfulness and eating might seem like a strange pairing, but changing the way you experience food doesn’t just make eating more enjoyable – it can also result in surprising health benefits and better lifestyle choices.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is a simple adjustment that can revolutionise the way you eat and think about food. It draws on the traditions of mindfulness to help you more fully experience each mouthful and scientific study has shown this change can improve health and foster better eating habits.
Practicing mindful eating is about using the basic skills of mindfulness every time you eat. It involves placing your full attention on the experience of eating without self judgement or criticism.
How to practice Mindful Eating
Creating a mindful diet does not mean choosing particular foods and rejecting others. Instead, the emphasis is on how you think and feel while eating.
Building a non-judgmental and healthy relationship with food is the heart of the mindful eating diet’s success. Many people find that once conscious eating becomes routine, they naturally make different choices about what, why, and how often they eat.
The first step in creating a mindful eating program is practicing basic mindfulness skills. Use the Fit4100 Mindfulness Guide and spend two minutes each day developing your ability to be present and self-aware in the moment. Once you feel comfortable, extend your practice to eating using these tips on how to do mindful eating –
1) Start small
Begin by choosing only one meal each day or one meal each week as your ‘mindful meal’. Allow yourself time to develop the habit of mindful eating, rather than pressuring yourself and becoming frustrated.
2) Set a time goal
Try to extend the time you spend eating. Instead of eating quickly in front of the computer, your phone, or the TV, set a goal to take 15 or 20 minutes to finish the meal. Use the time to chew every mouthful thoroughly, experience how the flavours develop, and pause between bites to check-in on your thoughts.
3) Use all your senses
Flavour is only one part of the experience of eating. Engage all of your senses in your meal by concentrating individually on the colours, textures, aromas, and even the sounds that are connected with your food.
4) Think about your food more holistically
Another key part of the mindfulness-based eating solution is gaining a deeper understanding of food. Use the time you are preparing and eating your meal to think about how your food was grown – the labour, water, sunshine, and soil that supported it – and how the cooking has transformed its form and flavour.
What are the benefits of Mindful Eating?
There are two ways mindful eating improves health.
The first is the direct physiological benefits that come from eating more slowly. The process of digestion relies on hormonal signals sent between the gut and the brain. Research on Mindful eating shows that it takes an average of twenty minutes for the brain to identify that enough food has been eaten. Practicing mindful and intuitive eating allows time for this signal to be received, helping you to better judge when you are full and avoid over-eating, which can lead to a series of digestive problems.
The second group of benefits arising from mindful eating stem from changes in behavior and are proven to have a significant impact on health. Experts like psychologist Jean Kristeller say this is because mindful eating creates a “moment of choice” between the urge to eat and the act of eating, which allows people to cut down on instances of emotional eating and to make better choices about what they eat.
This idea is backed by research – including this 2013 study on Mindful Eating that found mindful eaters chose smaller portion sizes and this 2011 study that indicated mindful eating techniques could decreases instances of binging.
While eating in this way is not intended as a method of mindfulness for weight loss, there is strong evidence of a connection between mindful eating and shedding kilos. Sustainable maintenance of a healthy weight is a key factor in better aging.