What is Mindful Eating
How many diets have you been on that have had long-term success? Mindful eating is certainly not another restrictive diet. It’s a lifestyle.
It originates from Buddhist meditation techniques that encourage you to be present in the moment, so that you can be more aware of your thoughts and feelings.
Eating is not our sole purpose in life, although you need to do it to nourish and energise yourself.
Mindful eating can help you learn to enjoy food and resist it when the body doesn’t necessarily need it.
Many bad eating habits are attributed to emotional aspects of your life. However, emotional eating is not completely negative. Some babies get food by breastfeeding, which also provides comfort and attachment to their mother.
When you are feeling emotional, do you turn to food? Are there other coping mechanisms you could use?
You must always listen to your body when mindful eating. Not every day will be the same. Some days you may feel tired or ill and your body has different nutritional demands when menstruating or going through the menopause.
A hectic lifestyle can lead to poor eating habits. Some days may be more hectic than others. Mindful eating is not about being perfect, but more about being aware of your mind and body and changing your attitude towards what you eat.
There are many benefits with mindful eating:
- Improved digestion
- Being aware of that moment in time
- Better interaction with others at mealtimes
- Healthier food choices
- Being aware of harmful ingredients
- Being more in tune with your body
- Breaking bad eating habits
- Potential weight loss without feeling restricted
- Better control over what you eat
- Better mood
- Being more aware of food sources
- Reducing food waste
- Reducing stress
Mindful Eating Techniques
Everyone has different lifestyles and will need to take mindful eating at their own pace. Breakfast at the weekend may be more leisurely and be a good place to start, however, breakfast in the week, if you have kids, is more hectic and dinner may be a better starting point. You decide which part of the day is more likely to allow you to give it a go.
You can try some or all of the following techniques. They all bring benefits and will contribute positively to your health and wellbeing.
1) Learn basic nutrition
Learn which nutrients your body needs to function optimally. Don’t be afraid of carbs, or any necessary food group.
2) Know how food is made and where it comes from
Be aware of the source of your food. Knowing your food has been prepared according to the essential guidelines may help you feel better about eating it.
3) Eat Seasonal food
Seasonal food is often cheaper and better quality.
4) Drink more water
Keeping yourself hydrated is important, as so many functions in the body rely on it.
5) Keep a food diary
This could highlight which foods are making you feel bloated, tired or affecting your mood.
Write down how you feel (hunger/fullness) at the beginning of the meal. Then stop when your plate is half empty and note your hunger/fullness again. Ask yourself if you should keep eating or if you’re full. Do this a third time and hour later to see if the food you’re eating is leaving you stuffed, hungry immediately after, or just right.
6) Only eat when you are actually hungry
Look out for triggers that are making you eat. These could be feeling tired or being upset by something. You may just be thirsty. Have a glass of water and wait for about 20 minutes to see if you are still hungry.
7) Eat local
Pick your own fruit and pumpkins, go to farmers markets or find local food producers, like a nearby farm. Local food festivals may also have local producers.
8) Eat at a table
Set the table with nice tableware and socialise with friends and family. Interact. It’s amazing how much more your kids talk about at the table.
9) Eat alone
Talking may be a distraction from being mindful about what you’re eating, so try to eat alone in silence too sometimes.
10) Get the kids involved
Ask them to describe the flavours and textures of what they are eating. It will broaden their vocabulary and get their imaginations going.
11) Fussy Eaters
Get them to explain why they don’t like a food. Ask if it is just the texture or the flavour or both. Tell them the nutritional benefits of a food they won’t eat.
12) Read Food Labels
Learn about the ingredients your food contains. Some additives may be ok, others not so ok.
13) Reduce distractions
Put phones on silent, turn the TV off.
14) Eat slowly
Chew your food as much as you can. Your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Give it something it can easily work with.
15) Plan meals
Knowing what you are going to eat each day can give some order to your life and also help you budget. Create shopping lists from your plan and only buy what’s on the list.
16) Give yourself permission
Allow yourself to have something you really want, unless you are allergic to it. The forbidden fruit is always the most tempting. Restricting a food may lead to bingeing.
17) Portion sizes
Become aware of how much food you really need to eat to be properly full. Diets often have strict portion sizes. No one diet fits all. Everybody has a unique physiology. Don’t be a sheep and follow it because some Hollywood A lister said it worked. Once you get used to your portion sizes you will also reduce food waste – double whammy!
Put your fork down between bites and breathe and allow yourself to enjoy your food.
Carry healthy snacks with you. This could be in your bag, car or on your desk. It’s not always easy to avoid a trigger which makes you crave something unhealthy. Be prepared.
20) Always eat from a plate
I know fish ‘n’ chips is great out of the paper once in a while (sorry, have I just made you want fish ‘n’ chips??) but try to plate them up.
21) Sit in a different place to eat
This may work best when you’re alone. Enjoy your surroundings as well as your food. If you feel calmer, you’ll eat more slowly.
22) Always eat sitting down
It’s better for the digestion.
23) Try eating with the opposite hand
You will eat slower.
24) Never eat “in secret”
No middle of the night visits to the fridge. Be truthful to yourself about what you eat and what emotion you had at the time you ate it.
25) Cook food when you’re in a good mood
This is especially true when you’re baking and you pound doughs and mix cake mixtures a little too aggressively.
26) Eat when you’re in a good mood
If you are not relaxed then your digestion will suffer.
27) Eat your favourite food on the plate last
This is a good one for kids. They usually leave vegetables otherwise.
28) Use a smaller plate
Mindful eating is about eating until you’re full, not depriving yourself. You can always add extra food once your plate is empty.
29) Get plenty of sleep
Sleep deprivation encourages cravings.
30) Make a list of non-food related activities that make you feel good
Often, you eat when bored.
Pick out the suggestions that suit your current lifestyle. I say current, as this may change as you try more and more of the ideas.
Try these techniques and be more mindful about how, why, what, when and where you eat and, hopefully, mealtimes may become more relaxing and enjoyable for everyone.