Taking time to savor food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The art of really engaging with meals has been lost by many over the years, with many of us now eating mindlessly throughout the day.
How many times have you sat down at the cinema with a tub of popcorn, and been so engrossed in the movie that you were shocked to find the whole tub empty when the credits rolled? Similarly, the hectic nature of life these days means people are hitting up drive-thru’s to grab quick snacks to eat on the move, thereby missing the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the food. Habitual eating also falls into this area.
Mindful eating has become increasingly popular in the last couple of years, along with the trend towards meditation. Mindfulness is simply the awareness of the present moment. It’s living in the here and now.
According to the Center For Mindful Eating, Mindful Eating is “allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.”
For many people, it is about bringing eating habits back to how they were as children. Kids are naturally tuned into and eat to satisfy their body’s feelings of hunger and fullness. There is no judgment about whether the food is good or bad for them. As we get older and busier, it can be easier to lose that connection.
Research has shown mindful eating techniques to be useful in the treatment of Binge Eating Disorder and in helping people improve their eating behaviors.
How Do I Eat Mindfully?
- Before eating, the first question to ask yourself is if you are hungry, and then try to pinpoint how hungry you are so you can avoid eating for other reasons, such as stress or boredom. Many people find it useful to think of hunger in terms of a 10 point scale, where 1 is starving to the point of pain, and 10 is very uncomfortably full (thanksgiving dinner full). You should also eat when you are hungry, but not famished, as this can lead to overeating.
- Where possible, sit at a table to eat. Get rid of any distractions, such as your phone or television.
- Engage all of your senses. Appreciate your meal visually; look at the colors of your foods and the plate. Inhale deeply with your nose and really smell the aroma of the foods.
- Once you take a bite, chew slowly and pay attention to the taste and texture of the food. Many people find that in doing this, they realize that much of the food they eat is not as tasty as they first imagined.
- Put your fork down in between each bite. This allows you to really savor the mouthful of food you had, and makes each further bite a choice, which can be helpful for those of us who are used to eating without thought.
- Continue this pattern, eating slowly and consciously until you begin to feel full. Back to that hunger scale, you want to stop eating when you reach a 6-7 on the scale of fullness.
- Be mindful also of how your body feels after eating. You may notice that certain foods leave you feeling more tired or unwell. Awareness of how your body feels will help you to make good food choices.
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