If you have a tendency to eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re feeling anxious, stressed or upset – learning to eat more mindfully can help with this. Using mindful eating can help with emotional eating. You learn to listen to your body and the cues for being both hungry and satisfied.
What is mindful eating?
– Eating and focusing your attention on your food and the effects of it on your body
– Eating with the intention of honoring what your body needs
Benefits of Mindful Eating
– Learning to recognise and meet your needs in ways other than eating when you are not physically hungry such as realising when you are bored.
– Becoming aware of your associations with certain foods and how this make you feel through journalling and noticing your reactions.
– Awareness of physical cues for being hungry and feeling satisfied.
– Better digestion through eating more slowly and chewing food thoroughly.
– Choosing foods you enjoy and that nourish you.
– Moving away from restrictive food regimes and dieting.
– Recent research shows mindful eating is linked to weight loss
How can I practice mindful eating?
1) Check your Hunger
Before you eat check in with yourself to see how hungry you are using a scale of 1-10. If you are not physically hungry think, what else you might be hungry for? If you are upset and eating maybe you are longing for some comfort and could find another way to get this such as phoning a friend. Waiting 20 mins when you are craving sugar can help the craving pass.
2) Keep a Journal
Keep a note of your daily foods and your physical and emotional responses. This will help you to learn your “trigger” foods – those that make you want to eat uncontrollably and binge. It can also highlight the relationship between certain foods and your feelings.
3) Sight and Smell
Before you put any food in your mouth take a look at your plate noticing the colours and shapes of your food. Take a few deep breaths and inhale the aroma of your food and notice your response to this.
4) Get Rid of Distractions
Turn off the TV. When eating, make that the only thing you are doing. Sitting at a table can help. If you have no distractions this will help to focus your attention more on the food.
5) Chew each Bite
When you take your first bite, chew your food slowly noticing the taste and textures of the food. Notice if these sensations are pleasant or unpleasant to you.
6) Slow Down
Take your time to eat. Some people find it helpful to put down their knife and fork in between bites to lessen the temptation to pile in more food.
7) Satisfy Yourself
Many of us were told when we were young that it was rude not to finish everything on our plate – now that isn’t the case! Check in to see if you are getting full after a few bites and notice the sensations you get when you are satisfied but before getting uncomfortably full. This might take a lot of practice and feel unnatural at first especially if you are used to overeating so don’t worry.
How to Start
Try one meal a week or a day to start with. As you become familiar with this practice add more in to your week. As with everything this is progress and not perfection so accept that alongside eating mindfully there will also be mindless eating and that is OK, journal what happens and try to learn from it.
I’d love to hear from you – how have you found mindful eating? What has helped you?