Mindful Eating and how to get started
Mindful eating is about using mindfulness to reach a state of full attention to your experiences, cravings and physical cues when eating.
Fundamentally, mindful eating involves:
- Eating slowly and without distraction.
- Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you’re full.
- Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating.
- Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes.
- Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
- Eating to maintain overall health and well-being.
- Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure.
- Appreciating your food.
These things allow you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions with more conscious, healthier responses.
Here are some of my favorite tips to introduce mindfulness to mealtimes in an easy, accessible fashion.
Eating slowly doesn’t have to mean taking it to extremes. Still, it’s a good idea to remind yourself, and your family, that eating is not a race. Taking the time to savour and enjoy your food is one of the healthiest things you can do. You are more likely to notice when you are full, you’ll chew your food more and hence digest it more easily, and you’ll probably find yourself noticing flavors you might otherwise have missed.
Savor the silence
Silence the phone. Shut off the TV
Our daily lives are full of distractions, and it’s not uncommon for families to eat with the TV blaring or one family member or other fiddling with their iPhone. Consider making family mealtime, which should, of course, be eaten together, an electronics-free zone.
Pay attention to flavor
The tanginess of a lemon, the spicyness of arugula, the crunch of a pizza crust — paying attention to the details of our food can be a great way to start eating mindfully.
Know your food
Mindfulness is really about rekindling a relationship with our food. From planting a veggie garden through baking bread to visiting a farmers market, many of the things we locavores have been preaching about for years are not just ways to cut our carbon foodprint, but also connect with the story behind our food.
Even when you have no idea where the food you are eating has come from, try asking yourself some questions about the possibilities: Who grew this? How? Where did it come from? How did it get here? Chances are, you’ll not only gain a deeper appreciation for your food, but you’ll find your shopping habits changing in the process too.
I asked Julie Silver () who is a qualified nutritional therapist and author of ‘Food Awakening – Nutrition for NOW’ about Mindful Eating and here is what they said:
What is mindful eating?
Being present when eating and not doing anything else such as watching TV, reading or thinking about other things obsessively.
How does mindfulness help people manage their emotions and thoughts?
It helps people focus on what they are currently doing rather than getting caught up with the past and future, which is when stress and upset can manifest.
Give us an example of a Mindful Eating Tip:
When eating notice the colours of the food before you put it in your mouth, notice the sensation, taste and texture as you are eating it.
How is mindful eating different than just deciding to go on a diet or restrict certain foods?
When dieting or restricting foods you will feel deprived and then usually will want it more as a result. Mindful eating is giving yourself the permission to eat anything you want although you may find that you don’t actually want it and more likely not to overeat or eat foods that cause weight gain.
Where can people learn more about mindful eating?
People can learn more about mindful eating by reading books such as ‘Food Awakening – Nutrition for NOW’, reading online, watching YouTube clips and on courses or workshops.
What are the simplest, most reliable ways to build greater awareness of your health habits?
To be mindful of what you are eating, notice how you are feeling after you’ve eaten, writing a journal stating how you are feeling on a day to day basis to see if there is a correlation between unhealthy eating habits and the way you feel.
For someone who doesn’t like to cook and isn’t good at it, what is the fastest and simplest way to get into the habit of cooking healthy food, while minimizing the time spent cooking?
Look for easy recipes that don’t require many ingredients, with quick cooking times and find foods that are healthy and don’t take a long time to cook.
Can you share just one or two really simple cooking techniques that people should start with?
One pot cooking is a great way to minimize time spent cooking and there will be less washing up too. An example would be cooking rice, beans and vegetables into a dish such as the Ayurvedic recipe Kitchari.
A very quick and colourful stir fry can be made with grated carrot, courgette and finely chopped red cabbage, leek and at the end of cooking add chopped kale and some frozen peas and sweetcorn.
What tools and strategies should people use to build better habits and “upgrade their healthstyle?”
Get prepared by buying some healthy foods or order from an organic delivery company so you always have healthy food in the house.
See if other family members will support your healthy eating regime and help you when preparing.
Plan in advance what you are going to eat the next day rather than deciding just before the meal, what to make, as it will probably be too late to get organised to cook a healthy meal.
What are the biggest mental barriers you see stopping people from living a healthy lifestyle?
It will be too much like hard work and they haven’t got the time.
They are not sure what to do.
They haven’t got the time.
They may not have as much in common as their friends or family by doing something different.
What are the top 3-5 keystone habits everyone should focus on first?
Eating something healthy for breakfast if they are hungry and continue throughout the day eating regular healthy meals.
Avoid artificial ingredients and processed foods.
Cut down on caffeine and sugar.
Instead of giving anything up replace foods with healthy alternatives.
Take some deep breaths before eating to help reduce stress so that more nutrients will be absorbed.
Can mindfulness really help people eliminate cravings and addictions? Or change stubborn habits and patterns?
Yes as awareness is the first step to healing and it gets people to become more truthful with themselves. This can be a very beneficial way to be more kind to oneself rather than punishing themselves with food.
What does “mindfulness” look like anyway? Could you share a simple practice people can try—if they’re craving ice-cream and pizza, for instance?
Firstly focus on how you love feeling i.e. energised, healthy and light. When eating the food, mentally ask your body if it’s what it wants. You might feel a sensation, get a message mentally coming to you or have a physical reaction such as a cough or a pain in your body. Dont try to force anything; just let it be as it is. Carry on eating the food or drinking the drink if you want to. You may notice over time that you go off the food or forget to have it.
What are your top 3 Mindful eating tips for ‘beginners’?
When shopping for food, preparing it or about to eat it, visualise how your body will react to it. Do you feel weakened at the thought or energised.
When you are eating notice if you are enjoying it.
Ask yourself mentally as you are eating – ‘am I rushing what I am eating it or am I eating it slowly?’