Over the years people’s lives have become busier and we are more connected than ever. Our lives are constantly on the move. Because of this, we have a fast-paced life of convenience. Our meals are now pre-prepared, designed to be eaten on the go or easily collected from a window or delivered to your door.
Our bodies are not responding well to this type of lifestyle. Weight gain, lack of sleep and irritability are all signs from our body telling us to slow down. But we struggle to listen and act on what our body is telling us …because we just don’t have the time.
One way we can act on those messages without changing our life too much is to be conscious of what and how we are eating. This is known as mindful eating.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is when you eat while being present in the moment. This involves being relaxed and fully conscious of what you are doing around food.
The practice should be free from distractions and should allow you to be more aware of each of your senses during eating. By doing this, you will also become more in tune with your body’s needs.
When we do become distracted while we eat or combine eating with another task, we don’t always pick up on the signals that our body sends us. Those signals can indicate if we are full or eating from a place of emotion.
Mindful eating is not a diet but a lifestyle change around how you should view food. The purpose is to develop a good relationship with food. Food should be a source of fuel and be able to nourish your mind and body, not to fill an emotional void. Emotions such as boredom, sadness and anger often cause us to overeat or make emotional choices.
Just by being fully aware and in the moment, you can identify how certain foods and drinks react to your body.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
In an era when multitasking often means success, it is difficult for a lot of people to change their attitude around food and their habits around eating. However, like all changes that relate to food, there are a lot more than just the one benefit when you do choose to make some changes.
Some of the benefits to eating mindfully are:
By slowing down the rate you eat and consciously chewing each mouth full of food slowly, you digest your food easily and therefore can identify feeling full before overeating. Having good digestion will also lead to a reduction in bloating, heartburn and reflux.
- You see a reduction in food cravings
Do you really pay attention to what you are eating? You may say yes as you know what you are eating, what the meal consists of or the temperature. But do you identify the flavours? Can you pick out each individual ingredient? How do you feel when something tastes good?
Be very conscious about how each mouthful tastes and make an effort to identify each flavour. This conscious awareness will tell your mind that you are receiving your dose of sweetness or saltiness and in turn your mind won’t make you believe you are needing (craving) a certain type of food later on.
Want to take your mindful eating to the next level? Slow it down more by writing down what you taste as you eat it.
- You see a reduction in calorie intake and may lose weight
Mindful eating is not just about the process of eating but also about food purchasing and preparation also. If you consciously choose your foods, avoid shopping hungry and actively observe your portion sizes, then your calorie intake is automatically reduced without actually being on a diet.
When all of the reasons above are put into action then your stress is immediately reduced. What you eat has a huge impact on how your body functions throughout the day. How you digest your food results in if you have the energy or feel sluggish. It is a complete cycle.
By ensuring your body is in a state of calm, you won’t eat from a place of emotion, therefore you won’t give in to food cravings and eat too many calories. In the end, your digestion will be better and you will have more energy to get things done.
How to practice mindful eating?
We have already covered the benefits and the ‘why’ we should all practice mindful eating. But HOW do we embed this practice in our day-to-day life?
Some of the switches you can make to start are:
- Slow down your eating. Set a timer for 20 minutes and keep an eye on the timer for how quickly you eat. Each time you sit down for a meal, see if you can make it last longer than the timer.
- Stick to the list. Before shopping make a list at home, as you plan out your meals for the week. Then ensure you eat before shopping. Never shop when you are hungry. Supermarkets are designed with the purpose that shoppers make impulse purchases. Don’t stray from your list when everything looks delicious.
- Remove packaged and processed foods from your home. These are the items that most people reach for when they are busy and on the go. You may be great at sticking to these items as a treat however when items are not portioned out, this is where mindLESS eating comes in and you can lose track of how much you are consuming. Aim to keep as many fresh foods in your house as possible and take time to prepare each time you make a snack or a meal. Eating fresh food also comes with a lot of other health benefits such as reduced blood sugar and cholesterol, increased heart health, and clearer skin.
- Bring ritual to your meal time. Ensure your place is set at the table before you eat. Lay out a glass of water, cutlery, a napkin and condiments so you do not need to leave the table once you start. Get into the habit of doing this for every meal even if it is just a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast. During your meal, place your cutlery or food item down after each bite so you can savour the taste and ensure you chew your food slowly.
- Stop when you are full. For a lot of people, this is the hardest thing to change. You were probably told as a child that you had to finish everything on your plate. This was normally the doing of grandparents; who had often suffered and rationed food during war times. Times have changed now and while you don’t want to waste food, stop when you are full. Store leftovers correctly and save the rest of your meal for another time. The next time you prepare food, serve a smaller amount.
Mindful eating can be done by anyone and doesn’t take a lot of effort to make small changes. By applying these tips and tricks, you will see how quickly your mind and body respond for the better.
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