Mindful eating - what it is, what it’s not and 4 realistic ways you can incorporate more mindful eating into your life today!
Mindful eating may sound like just another food fad, another trendy buzzword health thing which we can just add on to the long list of ways in which we don’t measure up to society’s standards! Hold on though, because mindful eating can be a great way to gain awareness of what nourishes your mind and body. It’s been shown to be positively correlated with mental well-being and promotes behavioural flexibility (our ability to change our thoughts/behaviours/feelings) and therefore opens the door for us to cultivate more positive relationships with food (1,2).
What it is:
Mindful eating is simply the practise of paying attention, of being aware whilst eating. Sounds obvious right, but how often do you autopilot your way through food, are you really aware of how the food looks, smells, feels and tastes in your mouth, how satisfied it makes you feel? Do you eat the amount on your plate without pausing to notice how full you feel? Do you leave the table still thinking about food because you’re still kinda hungry?
Mindful eating is simply the act of truly being present when you eat, choosing to intentionally notice those things. Tuning in to the information about taste, smell, texture, hunger, fullness, enjoyment, dislike and satisfaction. That is all it is, information, you don’t necessarily need to do anything about it at all.
how often do you autopilot your way through food?
What it's not:
Firstly, mindful eating doesn’t not mean healthy eating and is absolutely nothing to do with weight loss. It doesn’t mean you will eat less, or more or even enjoy your food more. Having these preconceived ideas or standards makes it difficult to just have your own personal experience of eating mindfully. You may feel that because you didn’t enjoy your meal more or eat less because you were eating mindfully you did it wrong or if you ate past fullness because that pasta was just downright delicious, that you’ve somehow failed. This is not an all-or-nothing thing. You literally can’t fail, you can just eat more mindfully and less mindfully. There absolutely are times when you will need to down that smoothie or stuff that leftover piece of chocolate cake in your mouth because you’re already late for work, the dog just pooped on the carpet and the kids aren’t even dressed yet, this isn’t failing, this is life!
This is not an all-or-nothing thing. You literally can’t fail, you can just eat more mindfully and less mindfully.
Despite what you may have heard, you don’t actually need to be sitting alone in a soundproof, darkened room with zero distractions, chewing each mouthful at least 100 times eat mindfully. Here are 4 things you can put into practise today to eat more mindfully -
Try to approach each meal, snack and time you eat as a new opportunity
We often experience things based on how we’ve experienced them in past and those past experiences can dominate the one we have right in front of us.
Use those senses
Focus on the appearance, smell, texture, taste, sound - remember you don’t need to do anything about it, just notice it
Even if it’s just a little, even if it’s one meal a day, one meal a week. Try eating it a little slower, to create some time and space for tuning in.
Feel the feels
This may not initially feel safe, especially if you’ve had very negative, traumatic and disordered relationships or experiences with food, so only do this if you feel safe and ready to. Notice the thoughts and emotions that come up while you eat. Are they negative, positive or neutral. Again, you don’t need to do anything about them, just sit with them, allow them to come up but try to remain present and focused on your current eating experience.
If you need some help making peace with food and are ready to jump off the diet crazy-train, or just desire more freedom in the area of food and health, get in touch about one-to one coaching.
Janssen, L. K., Duif, I., Loon, I. V., Vries, J. H., Speckens, A. E., Cools, R., & Aarts, E. (2018, 04). Greater mindful eating practice is associated with better reversal learning. Scientific Reports, 8(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-018-24001-1
Khan, Z., & Zadeh, Z. F. (2014, 12). Mindful Eating and it's Relationship with Mental Well-being. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 159, 69-73. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.12.330