You have probably heard the word ‘Mindfulness’ and may wonder what it is all about. Mindfulness is about being in the moment and focusing on what is happening right now. When you are mindful, you are not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. It is also about doing as few things as possible at any one time so you can focus on and enjoy the present moment.
So how does mindfulness apply to eating?
How many times have you eaten a rushed meal during your working day (possibly whilst still at your computer) because you feel drawn to get back to the job, only to find you are hungry again mid-afternoon and feel like you have not eaten anything at all since breakfast? This is because you have not given your stomach a chance to tell your mind you have eaten and so it thinks you have not, therefore, creating the mid-afternoon hunger pangs.
As you eat mindfully with an awareness of what you are eating, you become much more conscious of what you’re putting in your body. This is a key to choosing healthier, more nourishing foods. Mindful eating shifts the focus from calories and numbers to how certain foods make you feel. This increases the understanding that food is nourishment and energy rather than eating void of pleasure.
Here are a few tips to help you develop a more mindful eating style.
- Pause before eating. Take a moment to get in touch with your hunger levels and take a reality check about why you are eating. Make sure it is actually hunger which is driving you to eat rather than something else like an emotion.
- Chew and savour each bite. Really enjoying your food will transform your experience of eating. Notice all the flavours and textures in your mouth and you will get so much more enjoyment out of it.
- Create colourful meals. Your food can be a feast for all the senses if you just take time to add some colour to your meals. Beige food is not appealing to the eye and will leave you feeling much less satisfied when you eat.
- Switch off and focus on your food. If you are doing other things whilst you are eating like watching TV or using your phone, your mind will not notice you taking in food and you are more likely to overeat. Switch off all your tech and really enjoy that meal – you deserve it.
- Notice how you feel before and after your meal. Making a mental note of your physical and emotional feelings before and after you eat, can help you to get in touch with why you are eating, and this can help to change other eating habits like emotional eating. If you are rushing your food and distracted, you are less likely to be able to do this.
Mindful eating really is about reconnecting your eating with your mind rather than it being a robotic-like process that we rush through, barely noticing that it is happening. If you are not fully engaged with the eating process, your mind really does not realise it is going on and it is therefore really easy to overeat.
When you start mindful eating, I recommend just choosing one part at a time like switching off tech before your meal. Try introducing a new mindful eating habit each fortnight until you build up to the full process.