Be it looking into a surprisingly empty bag of chips that was full when you first picked it up or scooping up the last fudgy scoop of ice cream in a carton you just opened when you sat in front of the TV, mindless eating is characteristic of the eating habits of busy people in today’s busy 24/7 society in which we live; meals are commonly scarfed down as quickly as possible or eaten while working on a report, talking on the phone, checking emails, etc. To save time, of course… Hard to believe, perhaps, but how you eat is even more important than just what you eat.
Mindful Eating means paying attention to what you are eating with all of your senses and being aware of the entire experience of eating without judgment or criticism. Eating with intention and attention helps us learn to listen to what the body is trying to communicate to us about hunger and satiety (fullness). Both the inner and outer environments have their own hunger and satisfaction cues: most people are not fully aware that these cues even exist! Why bother paying attention to how we eat? If it tastes good, eat it, right? Want to try something different? Consider: do you eat when you are hungry or because you are feeling stressed or does the clock show it is “time to eat”? What does it feel like in your body when you are hungry? When you are full? How do you feel after the meal or snack? Do you savour your meals slowly or gobble them down in a hurry? Can you describe what you ate after you ate it?
Mindful Eating is not a diet plan nor does it restrict how much or what you eat; instead, it is about being more aware of your eating habits, the sensations you experience before, during, and after you eat, and your relationship with food and eating in general. Feeling satisfied from fully experiencing what you eat, being aware of your body sensations, and being in tune with internal and external cues can decrease stress and emotional eating, help you manage your weight and nutrition (Albers, 2015). When you eat mindfully, the joys and pleasures of eating are appreciated more than just the amount or type of food on your plate.
Tips for Mindful Eating
- Minimize distractions (like TV, computer, iPad, etc.)
- Minimize noise
- Just eat when you eat (rather than multitasking); be in the present with your food
- Turn off or put away your iPhone
- Eat when you feel hungry
- Sit down at a table
- Note who you are with
- Know your food (what is it? colour? texture? smell?)
- Who bought or picked the ingredients? What are the ingredients?
- Who cooked or prepared it?
- Eat slowly – try putting your fork down after each bite or taking 2 deep (rather then shallow) breaths between bites
- Savour each bite
- Stop when satisfied
- Note how you feel (physically, emotionally) after the meal or snack
- Note the thoughts present after you eat: are they judgments or criticisms? To whom or what are they directed?
Food can be your friend – relate to it like one! Instead of limiting yourself to only a few “treats” once in a while, savour and enjoy each and every bite of everything with all of your senses and with awareness and a non-judgmental attitude. Whether you’re holding a celery stick or a chocolate chip cookie, both are equally delicious and satisfying when you savour and experience each bite with all of your senses. So, eating Mindfully results in it not really mattering what is on the menu; it’s all good!