Mindful eating as a tool
You may have heard it said that you should chew each mouthful of food for 20 seconds, and spend 20 minutes on the meal. Turns out, it’s not just about digestion.
Most of us are all too familiar with the concept of mindless eating. It’s what we do when we’re eating while working on our laptops, watching television, chatting or scrolling on our phones. Research is continuing to show that eating more mindfully can help you to develop a healthier relationship with food, which in turn can support you to lose weight – and keep it off.
So what exactly is mindful eating? Mindfulness is essentially giving your full attention to one thing in the moment that you are experiencing it. In the case of mindful eating, it means eating with no distractions, with your attention on only your food and the act of eating. It means paying attention to your hunger, your fullness, your taste buds and even the thoughts that go through your head while you eat. This kind of awareness helps you to better ascertain how your body feels before, during, and after your meal.
A 2017 review of studies, published in the Nutrition Research Reviews journal, discovered that mindful eating is a helpful tool to manage binge-eating, emotional eating and eating in response to external cues. Using neurofeedback devices, the researchers noticed that the part of the brain that gets activated when we crave certain foods or get caught up in emotional eating became deactivated when participants were eating mindfully.
Mindful eating is a tool you can use at every mealtime. It’s simple but powerful and best of all – it’s free! Here are a few ways you can start to eat more mindfully.
- If possible, when you’re preparing meals, try to do so with your full attention. Just prepare your meal and do nothing else.
- Tune in to your hunger. Before you eat, ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Really savour the first few bites, chewing slowly and with a heightened awareness of the flavours, textures and smells of your food. Appreciate and enjoy each bite.
- After a few more slow bites, when you’re about halfway through, this time ask yourself how full you are on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Continue to focus on the sensory experience of your meal and aim to stop eating when you feel moderately full, around a 7-8 out of 10.
- It might take some practice, but don’t let anything distract you - not the television, your phone, laptop or even a lively conversation.
Over the next few days, why not try to incorporate some of these simple techniques and see if it helps you to develop more self-awareness around your eating habits?