ALTHOUGH not a new concept, mindfulness has become a modern day trend, gaining widespread support in promoting health and well-being. Originally embraced in some of the world’s oldest cultures, mindfulness is being consciously aware of your thoughts and emotions without criticism or judgment.
Applied to eating, mindfulness means listening to your body and tuning into your natural hunger and fullness signals. It’s not a diet (in fact it’s the complete opposite), rather it’s about paying full attention to what you’re eating and how you’re eating it, encouraging you to make better food choices and foster a healthful relationship with food.
While anything can be done mindfully, a small yet growing body of research has shown eating in the ‘present moment’ improves digestion, regulates our appetite and helps us enjoy our food much more. The latest study published in the journal Appetite found obese women who underwent a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention reported greater reductions in food addiction symptoms, binge eating and weight compared to the control group.
Indeed, advocates of mindful eating believe it’s a sure-fire way to achieve and maintain your healthiest weight, while still getting satisfaction from eating without feelings of guilt or deprivation that come hand-in-hand with traditional weight loss regimes (i.e. restrictive diets).
According to food psychologist Brian Wansink we make over 200 different food decisions every day — it’s no wonder we get paralysed by every decision we make about what we ‘should’ be putting in our mouths. Whether you choose to eat dessert, have a snack before dinner, or finish off the bottle of wine, the fact is that up to 80 per cent of the eating we do is “non-hungry” eating. In other words, eating for eating’s sake, which are most likely carried out subconsciously without even realising it.
How to eat mindfully
If mindful eating is a new concept for you, the key is to start gradually: eating one meal a day in a slower, more conscious manner. Here are 5 simple steps to help you become one with your meal.
Snack with purpose
It may sound obvious, but eating out of a bag or box is a mindless practice. Get in the habit of placing even small snacks on a plate before you eat them. This will force you to acknowledge exactly what and how much you will be eating.
Sometimes eating can feel like another item on the to-do list. If you’re one of those people who find it hard to eat lunch away from your desk or dinner not in front of the TV, challenge yourself to eat without multi-tasking. Research shows that eating while distracted makes it harder to recall the amount of food consumed, prompting you to eat more. Set aside time for eating without other entertainment.
Focus on each mouthful
Slow down, chew thoroughly and taste the food without eating on automatic pilot. Think about the flavour, texture and even notice the sounds your food makes while you’re eating it. Not only will you enjoy the food more, but savouring every bite allows the brain ample time to send fullness signals.
Honour your food
Adopt an attitude of gratitude and acknowledge the time and effort you put into creating your meal. Take a moment to appreciate where the ingredients come from, and the preparation and intention involved in getting the food onto your plate.
Rate Your Hunger
‘Real’ hunger is very different from perceived hunger which is often an indication of boredom or a symptom of procrastination. If you’ve just eaten within the last two hours, chances are you are not physically hungry. Then think about how hungry you are on a scale of 1-10. One represents ravenous, five is comfortable, and ten is full to the point you’re totally stuffed! You never want to reach either end of the scale. The trick is eating somewhere in the middle, so as to avoid overeating or eating out of control.
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