We don’t need to be scientists to understand how important nutrition is for our health. But what about mindful eating?
Indeed, nutrition relies heavily on eating highly nutritious food with the vitamins, carbs and proteins that we need. But proper nutrition is also about having the right portions of food when our body needs it and eating consciously.
With the increasing amount of anxiety, stress, panic and tension that we’re all going through today, it makes sense that, without realizing it, many of us are falling into overeating as a way to cope with our present sensations.
Overeating and binge eating leads to overweight, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
But as with most things in life, the best way to get the most out of the activities that we do is by adding some mindfulness to them.
What is mindful eating?
When referring to mindfulness, we’re talking about the practice of bringing awareness into the present moment. We bring attention to our bodies, thoughts, feelings, sensations and our surroundings, and we do this completely without judgments or interpretations. We experience the present moment while letting go of ideations and prejudices.
The Apple Meditation
“LET’S HAVE A TASTE of mindfulness. Take an apple out of your refrigerator. Any apple will do. Wash it. Dry it. Before taking a bite, pause for a moment. Look at the apple in your palm and ask yourself: When I eat an apple, am I really enjoying eating it? Or am I so preoccupied with other thoughts that I miss the delights that the apple offers me”— ‘Savor: Mindful eating, mindful life’ by Thich Nhat Hanh
Many of us eat in a very unconscious way. Whether it’s a hurried breakfast in the morning before going to work or having multiple snacks while watching our favourite Netflix show, eating becomes an activity that goes mostly unnoticed.
Mindful eating involves bringing awareness to the experience of eating, from the sensations of the body to the act itself. We bring attention to our cravings, the feeling of hunger, the impulses, tastes and textures, smells and our bodies responses to food.
By helping you eat at a calmer pace – which helps you feel full with a smaller portion of food – mindful eating can help reduce weight and overeating. It can also help fight depression and perceived stress. This practice has also been shown effective in the therapeutic treatment of binge eating disorders.
How to Practice Mindful Eating?
1. Listen to your body and Hara Hachi bu
Eating in moderation can be the place to start.
Hara Hachi bu refers to a very popular saying in Okinawa, Japan, which means eating until 80% full.
Eating unconsciously leads us to consume food until we feel completely full. But what we’re actually doing is eating more than we need, and we know this because we become remarkably tired and can barely move after a big meal. This leads to overeating and weight gain.
There’s not a way to measure how much 80% full looks like for you but being able to bring awareness and listen to your body while eating can help you have just enough until you feel satisfied.
2. Take a moment to appreciate food
Remember the apple meditation mentioned earlier? No? Then go back and check it out!
Basically, we’d want to meditate with our food. Take some time and appreciate its texture, colours, shape, and every other detail that you might’ve not seen before, maybe because of being too busy just eating it.
This can also be a great opportunity to throw in some gratitude for the food you’re about to eat. No need to thank anyone in particular, but you feel grateful for having good food to eat.
You can go a bit deeper and reflect on where the food came from, the number of people involved in the process, the elements used to harvest or produce it, the friend or family member who cooked it for you, and all the time and effort put to deliver this product to your hands.
3. Involve your senses
Eating could easily be the ultimate experience in terms of sensations. We get to smell, see, taste and touch food. There’s even some hearing involved, meaning we can hear food being prepared, chewed, chopped, etc.
The problem is that we rarely focus on these sensations mindfully.
Try incorporating other senses when you eat and take some time to notice each one at a time. Focus on the smell of your food, feel its texture with your hands (if possible), pay attention to the sounds, both of the food and your surroundings.
Be aware of your thoughts and sensations and be fully present in the activity of eating as a whole.
4. Remove distractions
Let’s take the time to eat and just eat!
Removing distractions can help you practice mindful eating with ease.
If possible, turn off the TV, put away your phone, save that book for later and just place your attention on the whole experience of eating.
Eliminating distractions while eating could help eat more slowly and reduce overeating.
If you’re at a table with others, encourage them to do the same or make them part of your practice by being open and aware of their presence and actions.
Remember to be mindful of the experience without judgements to yourself or others even if you’re having lunch with loud chewers.
5. Eat food that makes your body feel good
How does your body feel after eating processed food every night? Maybe not so great?
Mindful eating is also about changing poor eating habits.
When buying food, be curious about the effect of this food on your body. Your body can give you the clues you need to start eating a healthier diet if paying attention to it.
Bringing awareness to the table is another fantastic way to be in touch with yourself and the present moment.
Whenever you can, try to be mindful of the activity of eating even if you’re just having a snack.
Exploring new tastes and textures is a great way to practice mindful eating because it forces you to place your attention on the activity of eating something new.
Remember to be open to food and kind to yourself. Do not beat yourself up because you decided to have an extra cookie or because you forgot to be mindful during lunch. Practice self-compassion and kindness, and you can always give mindfulness a shot next time.
Looking to supercharge your diet and eating habits? Our nutrition programs can help you overhaul your lifestyle and get you results much faster than training alone. Get expert nutrition coaches, customised meal plans, feedback and results. Find out how!