Think about the workout you just did.
As an athlete, you can’t just go through the motions during a workout. You have to put in effort and be committed. It is crucial to be in the moment and tuned into your body and learn your body's weakness + strengths in order to get the best performance gains.
Being Mindful in your eating is the same practice of being fully attentive and tuned in to get the full benefits of your diet.
What are those benefits?
Well you’re likely to see improved energy levels, hunger sensations, reduced cravings, less food anxiety and guilt, and increased satisfaction and enjoyment of meal time. Mindful eaters have been shown to have lower weights, less body image struggle, reduced inflammation and increased mood and sense of self-worth. But let me be clear, this is more of a meditative practice than a weight loss strategy.
So what does being a mindful eater mean?
Well it is an approach to connect with your food through being fully present. To gain a positive relationship with food by honoring your basic needs and to get more pleasure and satisfaction out of eating. The mindfulness part comes by tuning out meal time distractions in order to tune in to your senses and full eating experience.
This seems like common sense, right?
Yes, but few of us are actually present (mentally) when we eat.
I mean, let’s be real… it has happened to all of us. You open the pint of ice cream, the bag of chips and take a few bites… you go for another bite and then, wait what?! There’s not another bite to take!? The container is empty!? Yeap. We’ve all been victims of this disappearing food trick. Except that it isn’t a trick, it is the result of not paying attention to the process of eating.
And how does that make us feel? Guilty? Ashamed? Certainly some form of negativity will be evoked.
How often does that happen to you? Maybe not to that extent, but what about your breakfast this morning, or yesterday? Do you remember it? The taste, the texture the preparation? Many of us do not. Meal times are easily forgotten because we fail to give them attention and importance.
So how can you become more mindful?
Start by identifying your problem area. Ask yourself questions about your eating and answer them truthfully. Are you satisfied with your meals? Do you frequently over eat? Does eating cause anxiety and stress? What foods to you choose? Do you enjoy eating? What do you really want to eat? Why do you eat when you do? Why do eat what you eat? Where do you typically eat? It might not be easy, to be truthful with yourself about your current habits, but it is necessary to have a realistic starting point. Changing habits isn’t always a simple process, but it is always a worthwhile one! Make a goal and take small steps to reach it. What can you do at the next meal time? This week?
Here are some simple steps to take to become a more mindful eater.
· Shake up your routine. Do you grab the same meal daily because of ease or convenience? Getting out of autopilot can help you start processing why you make the food choices you do.
· Tune out distractions. Shut off the TV, hide your phone, sit at a table… this will help you focus on the food and treat mealtime as an important activity.
· Eat slowly. It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to receive signals from your stomach that you’re full.
· Chew thoroughly. This promote satiety and helps you engage with your food.
· Learn about your food. What is it, where did it come from, how did it grow…
· Take a moment to be thankful. After plating your food, say a prayer, take a photo, whatever feels right to you to acknowledge what you’ve put on a plate before devouring it.
· Savor the first three bites. Studies show these bites provide the most enjoyment. After those, check in, are you still in tune? Still enjoying what you eat? If not, step away. If you are, make sure to engage with each bite until you're done.
Notice we didn’t talk much about what to eat.
Like the photo for this post... Mindful eating is important whether you're eating wine and chocolate or kale and almond milk. That’s because mindful eating is about how you eat, not what you eat. Although once you start to be more attentive to your food and how it effects your body, you're likely to have more positive thoughts about how food affects your health and well-being as well as knowledge of what foods provide positive nourishment for your body and which evoke negative health. Being mindful might lead you to choose kale over Cheetos.