I remember when I first heard the quote, Eat to live, don’t live to eat, I had a huge realization that food is there to fuel our bodies and not just satisfy the random cravings. So when I first came across the idea of mindful eating, I was more than intrigued.
What is mindful eating? It is based on the Buddhist concept of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps you recognize and cope with your emotions and physical sensations. Combining mindfulness with eating, it is about developing an awareness of your experiences, physical cues, and feelings about food. It is a way to gain control over your eating habits and become more aware of what you are putting into your body. There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness when eating.
Some of the perks of mindfulness include weight loss, reducing the chances of binge eating, and feeling better overall about one’s relationship with food.
Mindful eating teaches you skills to deal with impulses of unhealthy eating or binge eating large quantities of food. Becoming mindful can help with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and other food-related behaviors.
Studies show that the weight lost through mindful eating is more long term than weight lost from traditional diets. Since upon completion of a traditional diet, most resort back to their normal eating habits. Through mindful eating you learn to change your behavior and attitude towards food, reducing stress, unlike normal diets where all you do is stress about what you can and can’t eat because mindful eating is not a diet change, but a lifestyle change.
So, how do you become more mindful of your eating? I have included a few tips and tricks to get you started on your new relationship with food.
1. Eat when your body is hungry
It all begins with eating when your body tells you it’s time to eat, not when your mind wants to eat. Pay attention to how your body feels, is it hungry or feeling low on energy, or is your mind bored or stressed? This requires us to learn our own bodies signals of hunger.
Stop eating when your body is full
More often than not, my eyes are much bigger than my stomach, but I don’t realize this until it’s too late. It takes 20 minutes for our bodies to let us know they are full. Therefore, it is extremely important to slow down and take time and to focus when you’re eating to enjoy and appreciate every bite of the food.
Eat with others
This one is important for many reasons, having a set time and place to eat requires you to eat food in the way it should be eaten- at a table, on a plate, with silverware, at a certain time of day. We all get lazy and eat food out of the box with no serving size in mind or sporadically throughout the day. Eating with others forces you to be more mindful about your food, making each meal an experience.
Eat foods that are nutritionally healthy
This is an obvious one in any diet, but with mindful eating, it is about becoming aware of what’s in your food and what it is or isn’t doing for your body and its health. It may take a little while to wrap your head around a nutrition label, but through mindfulness, it will become easier to identify the good fuel you want to put in your body.
Give your food its undivided attention
This may be the hardest one for some of you, but it is good for both your physical and mental health. Put the phone down when eating. Don’t watch television or play a video game. Focus on the way your body feels when you’re eating, and of course, the food on your plate. By redirecting your attention to what’s happening in the moment, you are more aware of what you’re putting into your body, and how your body is responding to it, how it makes you feel, and when it’s full.
Be grateful for your food
Whether you realize it or not, gratitude is more than a feeling. Like all emotions, it is a form of energy. And when you feel energy and project it into an object, that object becomes infused with that feeling. This is where the concept of prayer comes from – having a moment of gratitude before a meal infuses your food with that same energy that in turn fills you with the same energy and also brings more positivity into your life
I know, it all sounds out there… but you don’t have to say a prayer to feel gratitude for your food. Simply take a moment to feel gratitude for being able to afford the food, for the person who made it for you, for yourself for making it… for the people you’re sharing it with.
Another way this concept may make more sense is thinking about the idea that food is cooked with love.
What does that even mean? It means that the person who prepared the food did it out of love for the person they were preparing it for… they were feeling love when they were cooking and that positive energy infusing the food makes it taste better. What a lovely concept – and that’s why many people think the food their mother or father’s make for them is better than anything they can find in a restaurant – because it’s full of love.
This is what mindfulness is about, being in the moment, appreciating the small things, those small moments that make life memorable.
At first, mindful eating may seem like a lot to take in or to consider. Start off with focusing on these points for just one meal a day, and eventually move the focus on to each meal. Before you know it, these mindful decisions will come naturally and you won’t even realize you are on track towards a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically.