6 ways to practice mindful eating
The mindfulness movement has gone mainstream over the past few decades. Meditation classes have cropped up in studios, offices, and schools, mindful listening is taught to parents and in workplaces, and mindfulness-based interventions are used in therapy. It’s also become more mainstream to apply mindfulness to a human necessity: eating. Learn more about mindful eating and how to apply it to your daily life.
What is mindfulness?
To be mindful is to be focused on the present. When you’re mindful, you are aware of and accepting of your feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, and the surrounding environment without being overwhelmed by those sensations or judgmental of them.
Everyone is capable of being mindful, though practice makes being mindful easier and a more natural part of our daily lives. Studies have also shown that practicing mindfulness has both physical and mental health benefits, including reducing stress.
What is mindful eating?
In the same vein, the definition of mindful eating is tied to focus and attentiveness. To eat mindfully is to eat while being fully aware of the experience, from the buying and selection of the foods to the preparation and consumption of them. Mindful eating is about selecting foods for both enjoyment and nourishment and being cognizant of your physical and emotional cues and triggers around food. It is also about acknowledging that your food choices are very much connected to the earth and its ecosystem as well as other peoples and cultures and their food choices.
Mindful eating benefits include weight loss, healthier eating behaviors, a healthier and less stressful relationship with food, and real appreciation of the food you consume.
What are some mindful eating techniques?
It can be easy to eat mindlessly, especially when life gets busy and eating becomes more about staving off hunger than nourishment and enjoyment. Practicing mindful eating exercises can help make mindful eating more of a habit and easier to maintain. Below are 6 ways to practice mindful eating.
1. Eat attentively
Most of us have been guilty of eating while working, eating while watching TV, or eating while doing something else. Drop the multitasking and focus on the food in front of you.
2. Eat slowly and listen to your body
Eating too quickly is one of the easiest ways to overeat as our body takes approximately 20 minutes after we’re full to send that satiation signal. By eating slower and making meals last at least 20 minutes, we’re able to better gauge when we’re physically full and should stop eating. To help do this, you can opt to put down your utensils between each bite, chew each bite at least 25 times, eat with your non-dominant hand, or start with a smaller serving size and institute a waiting period in between servings. Make sure to mindfully check in with your body throughout your meal.
3. Savor and appreciate the food
A crucial part of mindful eating is to really appreciate the food you’re consuming. Chew thoroughly and pay attention to the food when you eat, focusing on how it smells and tastes and how it makes you feel. Consider where the ingredients in your meal were grown, bred, or caught and the journey it took to get to your plate, and express gratitude to everyone and everything involved.
4. Consider whether you’re eating because of physical or emotional hunger
Many people have eating habits that are tied to how they’re feeling. For some, it’s stress-induced eating. For others, eating may be a manifestation of sadness or boredom. Instead of reaching for a snack without thinking, practice mindfulness and consider whether you physically need the food before you eat. Get to know your body’s hunger signals (rumbling stomach, low energy, etc.) as well as your emotional eating triggers so you can avoid the latter.
5. Maintain consistent and healthy eating habits
Eating on the go is not mindful eating. Regardless of how busy you might be, try to maintain consistent and healthy eating habits. Eat around the same time each day, put your food in plates and bowls, and sit down for your meals.
6. Practice mindful eating meditation
Meditation practice can help you enhance your mindful eating habits. You can also find online meditation audio files and videos that cover everything from general mindful eating habits to more specific topics such as managing food cravings.
Remember that mindful eating is possible for everyone and it will only get easier with practice. Start with eating mindfully during one meal a day and work your way up to practicing mindful eating all the time. Your body will thank you.