Eating is essential to our daily lives. It provides the necessary nutrients, energy, and building blocks our bodies need to support various functions, including growth, skin repair, metabolism, and immunity. While eating is a staple in life, it can also lead to unhealthy habits that may impact your health. Let’s say you’re multi-tasking as you eat. This habit can make you lose focus on the eating experience, resulting in mindless eating.
With mindless eating, you may consume more unhealthy food unconsciously or develop a behavior of eating even when you’re not hungry. You may be experiencing this now, so you should embrace mindful eating to get back on track. Keep reading to learn what mindful eating means, its importance, and the practices you can do to ensure healthy eating habits.
Understanding Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a concept that has evolved from the mindfulness theory, which encourages slowing down and living in the moment. It refers to your awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations while consuming food and drinks. Besides eating, you can practice this while buying, preparing, and serving food.
Mindful eating is not about prohibiting yourself from enjoying fast food, creating strict diet rules, or being perfect by always eating right. It’s about focusing on your senses and living in the moment as you buy, cook, serve, and eat your food.
Why should you practice mindful eating?
Many people lead busy lives, and you may be the same. The busyness can make your mealtimes rushed, leading to mindless eating habits. Unhealthy eating habits are often caused by cravings, stress, boredom, anxiety, sadness, or loneliness, resulting in overeating and weight gain. These reasons are why mindful eating is necessary.
Mindful eating may not be for everyone, but it can help you be more attuned to your body and eating habits. Here are a few more benefits you can get:
- Reduces overeating and binge eating
- Easier diet changes
- Increases food satisfaction
- Better food digestion
- Weight loss
- More hunger and fullness awareness
- Stress reduction
- Healthier food choices
- Lessens food restrictions, judgments, and anxiety
Mindful eating doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process, so getting used to it can take time. You can practice it when grocery shopping and browsing menus in restaurants. Besides these, you can start practicing some mindful eating techniques now.
Get in touch with your senses
Getting in touch with your senses is crucial to mindful eating because it helps you appreciate the food and fully engage with the eating experience. Your senses can also enhance the shopping, cooking, and serving experience, increasing food satisfaction.
We have five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Each sense plays a vital role in promoting mindful eating.
- Sight – Visuals can significantly contribute to your food perception. You can make your food visually pleasing to appreciate its colors, shapes, and quality, stimulating your appetite to start a good eating experience.
- Smell – Aromas can impact your food experience. Take the time to inhale your food’s aromas to enhance anticipation and awaken the taste buds for the flavors.
- Taste – When you eat, your taste buds allow you to identify the food’s flavor. The taste can be sweet, salty, bitter, sour, or umami. In mindful eating, you get in touch with your sense of taste by savoring each bite to experience flavors and better understand your food preferences.
- Touch – You can immerse yourself in your sense of touch by feeling the food in your mouth. What is the texture? How does it feel while chewing? Focusing on these sensations can increase your awareness of the food’s quality.
- Hearing – How your food sounds when cooked, served, and eaten can bring sensory awareness to your eating experience. Listening to its crunch or sizzle can help you stay engaged with the real-time act of eating.
Utilizing your senses can cultivate a greater appreciation of the pleasure and nourishment food can bring to your life.
When you’re about to eat, observe yourself. Notice how you sit and see if you’re tense or relaxed. Ensure you’re sitting comfortably with a comfortable posture. At the same time, acknowledge your surroundings, but don’t focus there.
If you’re multi-tasking, observe how you eat. If you eat and work simultaneously, try to stop what you’re doing for a bit, so you’re not distracted while eating. That way, you can focus on eating mindfully while doing other tasks.
Evaluate your hunger
Hunger signals that it’s time to eat. When it kicks in, evaluate whether you’re hungry and determine the intentions behind your desire to eat. Do you want to eat because you’re hungry, or just because you’re bored, anxious, sad, distracted, or think it’s what you should do?
Recognizing your hunger intentions can help you understand your eating habits to prevent overeating, binge eating, and starvation. It can also allow you to keep track of your eating schedule, minimizing the need to eat even when you’re not hungry.
Appreciate the food
While eating, take the time to appreciate your food, whether alone or sharing meals with loved ones. Think about how it was made and how it makes you feel. Do you feel special because a loved one cooked it? Do you feel accomplished because you’re successful at making it delicious? Either way, food appreciation can make the eating experience enjoyable.
You can also appreciate the food by reflecting on its origins to make more informed, healthier, and sustainable food choices.
Eating slowly is considered one of the most potent ways to improve your health. Rather than just being full, it can help you feel more satisfied without sensing any digestive discomfort after eating.
Slowing down allows you to savor small bites by chewing thoroughly. That way, you’re not shoving and swallowing huge chunks immediately, making it easier for your digestive system to break down the food and absorb the nutrients. As a result, it can prevent stomach discomfort such as indigestion and bloating.
Moreover, slow eating can enhance food enjoyment and promote weight management because you’re not overeating or bingeing. You’re more likely to consume appropriate amounts to prevent weight gain and overconsumption.
Eating slowly is also the key to knowing when to put your utensils down between bites. As you put your utensils on the table, listen to your stomach and determine whether you’re full, so you’ll know if you should stop eating or take a moment for digestion.
Don’t skip meals
The most crucial principle of mindful eating is not to skip meals. Skipping meals can exacerbate your hunger, leading to unhealthy food options and eating habits like binge eating. Try creating a daily meal plan you will follow at the same intervals.
A meal plan allows you to outline the food you’ll eat daily. You can include plant-based dishes for meals, while for snacks, you can include a beef jerky bar, mixed nuts, and fruit slices.
Nurture Your Relationship With Food Through Mindful Eating
Your relationship with food is critical to maintaining your mental health. Feeling discouraged, anxious, or guilty about food can be easy when you’re health-conscious or trying to lose weight. Mindful eating can help you avoid these emotional barriers. Its whole point is to let yourself enjoy the food, nurture your perception, and have a more optimistic outlook on eating.