Mindful Eating is an in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink you put into your body. It is derived from Buddhist meditation practices, but plainly put in nutrition terms, it simply means “paying attention”. You are meant to focus on the present moment and acknowledge and accept the feelings and sensations you observe, without judgement. This practice should extend to not only the consumption of your food, but the purchasing and preparation as well.
Why Should I Eat Mindfully?
Food affects the way you feel physically, how you respond emotionally, and how you manage mentally. It can either boost your energy or drain you. That said, in today’s fast-paced world, eating has become a mindless, mechanical act, wherein people are no longer able to understand their body’s cues regarding satisfaction, hunger and satiety.
By eating mindfully, you can reestablish what it feels like to pay attention, and therefore make eating an intentional act rather than an automatic one. You’ll be able to understand the difference between true, physical hunger vs emotional eating, or eating out of boredom. You will appreciate the knowledge of food-related triggers and allow for better decision making when faced with choices.
How Do I Practice Mindful Eating?
1) Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles where you will find more of the heavily processed foods.
2) Eat more slowly. In addition to being able to realize when you’re actually full, stopping after feeling satisfied (versus stuffed), you’re also able to savor and better appreciate your food. Pay attention to the textures, flavors and sensations elicited while you’re eating. Take deep breaths, chew thoroughly, and take small bites so you can learn to recognize each ingredient as you taste it. During this time, put your utensils down between each bite and enjoy the company (or silence) around you. By practicing this step, you will be able to enjoy your food and pay better attention to your body’s fullness cues.
3) Be truly hungry, yet not ravenous. Having an actual appetite rather than eating as a distraction is an important step in Mindful Eating. However, it is important to also start with smaller portions (start by choosing a smaller plate – 9 inches versus 12 inches) to gauge what amount of food helps you feel satisfied. Regulating your hunger levels can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable, while also providing important nutrients to the body. However, if you are overly hungry, your main goal will be to get something/anything into your stomach and you will not be able to enjoy the nourishment.
4) Appreciate your food. Pause before you begin your meal and silently express gratitude for the moment. Appreciate the work it took to get the food to your plate, the companions beside you, the colors, textures, flavors and nutrition you are about to experience.
5) Notice your responses to the food. Without judgment, be aware of the feelings generated by the experience. Do you like your food? Dislike it? Neutral? Use these feelings going forward to continue nourishing yourself with things that is pleasing to all five of your senses.
Making it a Habit!
Some of these tips may not feel natural at first, because the practice of Mindful Eating is foreign to us in our active, fast-paced culture. But if you motivate yourself to try, you can feel confident in knowing that it will soon become a habit and eventually second nature.
If you are having difficulty managing your portions and hunger levels, schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitians who can guide you towards making healthful choices and help you determine what portions work best for your needs.