When we think of mindfulness, one thing that normally doesn’t come to mind is mindful eating. When we are mindful, we are “focusing attention on present-moment experiences.” In the case of eating, we are fully aware of what we are consuming and focused on the food in front of us – nothing else.
According to Harvard Medical School, “Applied to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; getting rid of distractions like TV or reading; and learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.”
In current times, eating mindfully is hardly ever done, especially with so many distractions around us. We eat while watching television, scrolling through social media, and as we do other things. This is considered “normal” but it is not good for us because it causes us to overeat, usually unhealthy food. Interestingly, when we try to multi-task as we are eating, our digestion can potentially slow down.
Studies have shown that “mindfulness sharpens a person’s ability to recognize internal cues that signal hunger and fullness.” When we mindfully eat, we are aware of how our body feels, so we know when we have reached our limit of fullness. When we are not eating mindfully, we tend to either eat too fast or continue eating without realizing that we are full.
Cravings are THE WORST if you are not being mindful. When we see something that looks good, such as donuts, cake, chips, etc., it’s hard to resist the temptation. We feel this way because of the past experiences we’ve had with those foods and how good they tasted. Research has shown that the same areas of our brain that are activated when we eat that specific food are also activated when we see it and think about eating it. When you become aware of your thoughts, you can “disrupt that automatic reaction by reducing the appeal of unhealthy foods.” Of course this is easier said than done but through practice, it is possible to overcome. When it comes to food cravings, social psychologist Esther Papies says that the “trick is to think of your food craving, when it pops up, as nothing more than a mere thought. ‘It’s really like a soap bubble. As soon as you touch it, it’s going to disperse.’”
Being mindful of your eating isn’t always an easy or automatic thing to do, so here are some tips on how to start practicing it:
It takes your brain approximately 20 minutes to receive the signal of fullness from your body. If you eat too fast, you are not giving your body the chance to communicate with your brain, leading you to overeat. The solution? Sit down, chew, and enjoy your food.
Are you REALLY hungry?
A lot of times we may eat just to eat, whether we’re bored, sad, or stressed. Instead of only listening to your mind, pay close attention to your body. Does your body really NEED that some of that casserole or chocolate your co-worker brought to work? Are you truly hungry or is your mind the only one telling you to grab something to eat?
Eat nutritious food and think about where it comes from
As you eat this food, understand that you are fueling your body with a healthy and nutritious meal that is providing you with many benefits. Thinking about where it comes from and how it made it to the plate in front of you will give you a different perspective (and may even cause you to make healthier choices).
Avoid all distractions
We consume so much more food than we need to when we are distracted. The best solution is to turn off the TV, put away your cell phone, stop multi-tasking, and focus solely on your meal. Although, if you have company, make sure you don’t ignore them. 😉
I’d love to hear feedback from you all and I hope you give this a try. I will be joining you in working towards being a more mindful eater and overall more mindful individual. What are your best ways to focus your attention to the present moment? Leave a comment below!
Main Photo: Peace Revolution
Mindful Eating Tree: Kwavi