To me, mindful eating is eating with full awareness, with intention and attention, with full focus on the act of eating, free of distractions such as technology or being in engaged in conversations, and choosing foods based on how they make you feel internally (as opposed to labeling them arbitrarily as “good” or “bad,” the concept of which could send me down another discussion rabbit hole entirely).
It’s the practice of making eating sacred, as it was intended to be. The act of eating is intimate and natural, and so it’s no wonder that many of us have a challenge with food! The legacy of Feminine Shame we’re all carrying is to blame.
The Benefits of Mindful Eating
In my own experience of practicing mindful eating, I have found my food tastes better, is more satisfying, and I am more tuned into my internal cues of hunger and satiety. I find it to be a meditative experience and a way for me to develop a deeper relationship with my body, and most importantly, the positive impacts of this mindful eating, meditative timeout trickle out into other facets of my day.
According to a study (Robinson, Aveyard, Daley, Jolly, Lewis, Lycett, & Higgs, 2013), mindful eating can work in two ways – causing one to slow down and therefore, reduce food intake, which can be beneficial for weight maintenance; and by learning to be more open to meeting negative or unpleasant emotions instead of avoiding them. Therefore, one is free of their distraction and can also avoid emotional eating. Additionally, the study concluded that by focusing on what you’re eating, you’re more easily able to recall it prior to your next meal, which will also help aid in more health supportive choices for later meals in the day.
Because of our fast-paced society, many think by “killing two birds with one stone” and multitasking our way through our meals is the way to go for efficiency. I see clients citing time management as a barrier to mindful eating. To this I advise some simple tricks to get them started such as setting a timer for the first 5 minutes of their meal, eating in a different location than they usually do (inside vs. outside, the living room vs. the dining room, a park vs. the car, etc.), pausing for a gratitude break before taking the first bite, doing a “5 senses checklist” and making note of what they notice about their meal through their senses.
Most importantly, I advise taking note of physical, emotional, and mental states before and after eating, essentially practicing the principle of cause and effect.
Through cultivating a deeper relationship with our bodies, we’re more likely to naturally choose foods that benefit and nourish our unique needs, in the right quantity and at the right time. I feel that engaging in mindful eating is a way to tap into our inner wisdom and is another tool in the arsenal against viewing food as a foe. The Center For Mindful Eating has some excellent additional resources, such as guided meditations, that can be found here.
In essence, keep it all simple, enjoy the process of fueling your body, savor the textures, flavors, scents, notice how your body responds – it knows what it needs and is thrilled to let you know! My challenge for you is to employ at least one of the aforementioned tips at least once every day for the next week and journal any shifts or observations. Share with me below!
Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Daley, A., Jolly, K., Lewis, A., Lycett, D., & Higgs, S. (2013). Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(4), 728-742. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/97/4/728.full
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