The Mindful Eating Way
Today, we all lead very busy lives; we are constantly on the run. Because there are also so many takeaway places within a stone’s throw from where we are, we usually snack something down on our way to the next activity or event. Sometimes we are so busy we hardly pay attention to what we are eating; just as long as we quench our hunger! So we wolf down a quick hamburger or an energy bar, drink it down with a soft drink, not realizing that we might be causing bigger health problems to our system than we ever thought possible, let alone weight gain. Our fast-paced lives today distract us from considering our meals properly. Often we move from the television to the computer, to our smartphone with fast food in hand. This is what mindless eating is. Let’s unpack exactly what mindless eating is so that by the time you are finished reading this article, you are determined to become a mindful eater – it’s important.
What is mindless eating?
Many people believe that mindless eaters are people who don’t have any willpower or self-control when it comes to eating. But actually, there are real reasons why people overeat or just mindlessly eat without being aware what they are eating – people eat often just to cope or out of pure habit. Mindless eating is eating without even being aware of it or not even being necessarily hungry. It is simply just putting food into your mouth for reasons that don’t have anything to do with hunger
Mindless eating often happens when we are bored, lonely, anxious, stressed, sad, and angry or frustrated. We usually try and distract ourselves from the emotions we dislike, trying to mask the feelings with food. Sometimes mindless eating occurs also just by habit – which means that sometimes we just end up eating food by routine even though we are not even hungry. With mindless eating, the number of times you
eat and the amount of food you eat can actually surprise you. To put it simply, mindless eating means that your brain is not involved with your eating. And it can occur when you are involved in certain activities like driving or reading, watching television, socializing, and doing any activity where you are concentrating more on something other than eating. Before you are aware of it, you’ve eaten much more than you planned.
… and mindful eating?
Mindful eating, on the other hand, is when you choose healthy foods specifically for you to enjoy, foods that awaken your senses and give you pleasure in eating it, merely by its delicious smell or flavors. If your goal is to eat mindfully, you automatically shift your thoughts from thinking about food to more exploring how you eat and less on what you eat
With mindful eating, you eat food carefully in order to fuel the body. When it comes to mindful eating, there are usually two times in a year when people start becoming more mindful of their eating habits. These times are:
- At the start of spring
These times on the calendar are times of new beginnings so to speak. People often gorge themselves at Christmas time and use the New Year as a new beginning; to follow through with good eating habits. Or in the springtime, they realize that their summer break is coming up; time to show off their beach bods which means time to start looking at their diet and eating mindfully.
Try this test
It has been suggested that for you to gain insight into just how often you eat mindlessly, you should just take one week out of your schedule to eat food using your other hand. Doing this demands of your brain to be engaged in the act of eating. Because it is unnatural for you to eat with your other hand, your brain needs to send a message to that hand to pick up the food and place it in your mouth. You will be amazed from this small experiment to realize just how much of mindless eating you do. Just imagine your life if you decided never to eat mindlessly again – many people would say – that’s impossible!
Let’s look at the reasons why people eat mindlessly
Anxiousness: People often say their mothers used to say when they were growing up, “Eat something now, because you are going to get hungry later on!” The thought of that precisely happening, later on, becomes a trigger for many people to eat, just in case … Another example is the anxiousness of not being able to eat a certain food again like maybe you have been on holiday; you are leaving and might not get to eat that food again, so you tuck in because you don’t want to feel deprived. Or you fear the thought of missing out on some special food. You are not particularly hungry, but there is something in the fridge that you want, and you eat it before someone else lays hold of it.
Your senses: The sight of foods or the smell of it triggers the need to want to eat it. Maybe you decided that you are only going to eat your main meal in the restaurant but somebody else later decides on the creamy looking crème Brule – now you feel you can’t leave without sampling it – it looks too delightful to pass over. Or you can smell the coffee shop with aromas of coffee and freshly baked donuts – how can you resist that, right? All the tastes of delicious foods on the palate can certainly be hard to resist and it’s hard for your mouth to resist something delicious – it craves the satisfaction and it looks for that entertainment through sweets, pastries, pies, creamy desserts and more. Once you start to eat your food with concentration and awareness of the senses, you can help in reducing the urge to want more and more and to give in to those senses.
resist that, right? All the tastes of delicious foods on the palate can certainly be hard to resist and it’s hard for your mouth to resist something delicious – it craves the satisfaction and it looks for that entertainment through sweets, pastries, pies, creamy desserts and more. Once you start to eat your food with concentration and awareness of the senses, you can help in reducing the urge to want more and more and to give in to those senses.
Money: How many times have you gone to a restaurant where someone else is footing the bill, and because it’s free, you decide to get your money’s worth? Or sometimes when you cook at home and there is a little bit of something highly delicious over, you decide to eat it rather than let it go to waste. Eating so that you are overly full is wasting food in your own body because your body does not need all that food for its energy. Don’t treat your body like a vacuum cleaner or a rubbish bin – you need to source other ways of getting rid of the waste
Eating what’s available: Often we are inclined to eat food because it’s readily available, so we will eat, hungry or not. For example, you might be attending a meeting where sandwiches and biscuits are freely available to enjoy with your coffee and tea – you did have breakfast before the meeting, but everyone else is putting titbits on their plates and you want to “feel included” so you add to your plate.
What about time? Its breakfast time, then its lunchtime, and then supper time and what about tea times in-between – that means it’s time to eat, right? But did you check to see if you are really hungry when those times come up? Many of us have been conditioned that breakfast, lunch, and supper are times to eat, hungry or not, which means sometimes we eat more than we need.
Emotions: We all know how easy it is to succumb to food when our emotions are in control – when we are lonely, sad, happy, nervous – we reach out for that chocolate or snacks to make us ‘feel better’ or to ‘celebrate’. Learn to recognize the signs of being emotionally hungry and physically hungry. Sometimes we reward ourselves with food too, like if we do well in that exam, we deserve that ice-cream or that huge piece of chocolate cake – after all, we earned it. Sound familiar? Or ‘After what I’ve been through today, I deserve the biggest pizza out!’
Just to please others: Maybe your mother or your friend especially prepared your favorite meal and now you want to show appreciation by eating more than you should so as not to offend
How can you deal with those triggers?
You need to be aware, you need to take notice of what the triggers are that cause you to overeat. Once you are aware of them, you can design the strategy to overcome them. Look at these helpful tips:
- First of all, realize that it okay and perfectly normal to be hungry. Remember, the enemy to your triggers is not being hungry, but rather over-stuffing yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being hungry, it is natural for your body to tell you it needs food, but eat balanced meals with the right proportions for your required body size.
- When you learn to respect your body and appreciate the health you have, you will take more care of it, appreciate all that it does for you and feed it appropriately, for its sake.
- Instead of saying “What can I eat now?” ask yourself, “Do I need to eat now”? If you are hungry, then you should eat.
- Remember you’re neither a bad eater nor a good eater; just let whatever enters your mouth to be a deliberate choice you made, that what enters will either be a good choice or a bad choice, a beneficial one or detrimental one. And then be willing to accept that choice along with the consequences.
- Don’t forget the water, because we all know how crucial water is to good health. Hunger is often disguised as thirst and maybe we put stuff in our mouths mindlessly when we actually need water. If you learn to drink water regularly each and every day, you will not only quench your thirst but it also helps to eliminate the yearning to eat mindlessly.
- Learn to eat slower as well, relishing your food, listening to how you breathe. When you start breathing or sighing heavily, your stomach has had enough and it’s time to quit eating.
- Taking the time to master eating with perseverance and patience, you can get rid of mindless eating. It’s going to be a daily practice, focusing only on today and not on a certain event or date on the calendar because your happiness, health, or wellbeing won’t be jeopardized any longer simply by eating mindlessly.
- Remember too that mindless eating can also be influenced by the environment and whom you come into contact with, like friends and family. It can be determined also by the sizes of glasses and plates, even music and even lighting.
Learning what causes you to eat mindlessly is an excellent step in changing how you eat. Don’t worry too much if you have over-indulged in the last few days, because there is no time like the present, and also, you are now newly equipped with the tool of mindset, mindful eating. Naturally, you would not run a long marathon without practicing properly and so it is the same with mindful eating. Your body needs to be trained to eat mindfully. Here is a 7-day plan of new habits to get you on your way of starting to eat mindfully:
1. First Day
Your first day is an excellent time to start some deep breathing before you start with any meal. Smell your food, enjoy the sight of what you are going to eat, look at the colors. Before you tuck in, take a moment to think about how grateful you are for this delicious meal before you. Gratefulness and peace are excellent for digestion as well.
2. Second Day
Try to chew slowly on this day, trying to concentrate on the textures and delicious tastes of your meal. Pay attention to the creaminess or crunchiness of the food and take in the flavors, savoring them. Between the bites, even put your fork down, taking a few deep breathes before you pick up your fork for another morsel.
3. Third Day
Today is an excellent day to eat your food not sitting in front of the TV. Sit at a table with your attractively prepared meal in front of you – no standing around.
4. Fourth Day
On this day, I would check out how full you feel. Are you aware of being full and satisfied? Are you hungry or thirsty? Try and take notice when you feel about 80% full and satisfied rather than being 100% full and satisfied. Try and stop eating at that stage, when you feel satisfied and not overfull to the point of discomfort.
5. Fifth Day
Before you reach for a snack, check yourself – do you really want this food; are you that hungry? Check out how good the quality of your food is that you want to eat.
6. Sixth Day
Enjoy the company of the people with whom you eat with on this day, listening to them fully, and not trying to prepare a response. If you eat alone, take note of your thoughts, letting them flow without any judgments or action.
7. Seventh Day
Pay attention to be aware of how your meal affected your energy levels and your mood. If you are not satisfied with the way you feel, don’t put yourself down negatively. Try to remember how you felt when you ate that particular food the last time, not repeating eating that food again. If you feel good, make a note as well, and be grateful for it
Even though mindful eating is not a diet, the ideal type of foods to eat when you do want to think carefully about them and plan them would be similar to those of the Mediterranean type diet which is centered on veggies and fruits, seeds, whole grains, nuts and vegetable oils. Even so, the technique of mindful eating should be practiced even if you are eating a cheeseburger with fries. Truly pay attention to what you are eating. Mindful eating is being fully centered on your food, buying it, preparing it, serving it and eating it. Adopting the technique of mindful eating might mean making a few adjustments as to how our approach your snacking and your
meals. Mindful eating can be used with any eating style. It’s not what you eat; it’s how you eat it. Therefore your relationship with food is improved and the hold that food had on you in the past will be broken, and that reduces stress in itself!
OK, you might not be 100% sure that this is the right kind of eating style for you but every person is a good candidate to follow mindful eating. Mindful eating isn’t something easy just to accomplish either – and it won’t stay with you if you are not prepared to make some changes in your lifestyle. That means you need to be ready for the changes so that when the going gets tough, you keep on pushing through. If you want to see changes, you need to be committed.
Are there any health benefits to mindful eating?
Yes, mindful eating has health benefits in that it:
- Boosts the immune system.
- Increases the absorption of nutrients supplied from food and energy when you eat healthy food.
- Improves gut health.
- Prevents over-eating, emotional binging and gaining weight.
- Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety.
- Treats as well as prevents eating disorders.
- Enhances your attention skills, memory, and learning.
- Prevents and treats eating disorders.
- Improves general satisfaction and contentment
Enjoying your food should be a real treat, so why not relish it with the wonderful technique of mindful eating.
Want to practice mindful eating
All that is required for this is to take a bowl of food that is easy to eat with your fingers. Take up a comfy position in a peaceful place and then close your eyes, starting to pick up one little item from the bowl, chewing it slowly with all your attention on it, paying attention to the sensations in your mouth. If you do it correctly this could take about 20 minutes as you eat one by one using only your index finger and thumb. Naturally, you wouldn’t behave like this in a restaurant; you would use your knife and fork!
Conclusion – mindful eating is worth a try, for sure
Just making concerted efforts to chew slower, to drink water in between your bites will soon have you realizing just how enjoyable food can be when you actually give attention to what you put in your mouth, It’s like stopping to smell the coffee. It really is worth your while to give mindful eating a try because the wow health benefits are certainly worth the time, attention and effort. Stay calm and watch how you eat.