Mindful eating is taking the practice of integrating mindfulness into mealtime routines. Accordingly, mindfulness is the practice of using all five senses to observe and be fully present to the current moment, without passing judgement or making assumptions.
Mindfulness and eating habits
Mindfulness is first and foremost a practice of the body, even though we typically classify it as a mental practice. While it does include focusing the mind on the present moment, it requires being present to the body in that moment. For example, those who battle chronic pain have been able to reduce their pain through mindfulness practices, being present to the pain and its experience, and then relinquishing the need to heal it or make it go away as quickly as possible.
In this regard, mindfulness is beneficial to the physical process of eating as well. By clueing into the physical cues, the body sends out during mealtimes, or not during mealtimes, you can become a mindful eater.
Plan your meals out beforehand
Have you ever visited the grocery store when you’re already hungry? That shopping trip may have ended with a basket full of items which sounded delicious in the moment, but did not offer much in the way of nutrition or nourishment.
Mindful eating begins with mindful shopping. One way to make sure that happens is by creating a list of meals, and their required ingredients, before mealtime arrives.
Plan out what you want to eat for the week and take stock of your pantry’s inventory. What dishes are you going to make, and what ingredients do you need to make it? Are you in the mood to try a new dish or do you need something simple and easy? Planning ahead gives you the option of selecting healthy choices.
By contrast, rushing or shopping impulsively can lead to the purchase of sugars, starches, and other food items that don’t represent healthy, mindful choices.
Notice why you’re eating
Take stock of the reason behind your moment-by-moment eating habits.
Is it breakfast, lunch or dinner time? Are you settling down to watch evening TV with a snack in your hands? Did you just work out and select an afternoon snack to help you make it through dinner? Do you feel bored, with little else to do besides search the fridge?
When you sit down to eat or gravitate to the fridge, notice why. If you take a moment to pause and ask yourself, “Why am I eating?,” you might notice how frequently you eat for the sake of having something to do.
Mindful eating allows you to minimize snacking between meals, which over time can lead to weight loss as a result of prudent eating habits.
Find other hobbies and activities you enjoy
If snacking is something you do while watching TV, working at your desk or try to find another go-to activity that keeps your hands occupied. Instead of snacking while doing homework, try chewing gum or sipping water from a bottle. While the TV is on, consider working on a puzzle, coloring in an adult coloring book, working on a project, crocheting a scarf or painting on a canvas. Not only do these supplementary activities help prevent overeating due to snacking while distracted; they also promote time spent pursuing productive hobbies.
Listen to your body
A huge part of mindful eating is listening to what your body is saying. Eating while distracted makes it difficult to clue into how full you truly are. Put aside distracting devices, magazines, etc. and eat slowly while noting how your body feels as you eat.
Once you’ve finished your initial portion, check in with your gut – is it happy and full? Did this meal upset you in some way? Are you still hungry and in need of another helping? By paying attention to your body’s needs, eating becomes less of a to-do item and more of an intentional form of self-care.
Breathe before you eat
Mindfulness is all about slowing down the body and mind. If we’re rushing from one thing to the next, there’s no time to be present. This is why breathing is a crucial component of mindfulness and should be incorporated into mindful eating as well.
Take a number of deep, cleansing breaths before you dive into your meal. This process can help to focus the mind and calm the body. It sets the stage for a peaceful mealtime, not one characterized by speed and stress.
Start your mindful journey today
Now more than ever, it’s important to find time for deep breaths and personal moments. If you can’t seem to find the time to do that, consider mindful eating. Practicing the art of slowing down, resting and breathing can not only benefit your mind; it will undeniably benefit your physical health as well. For more tools on enhancing your mental and physical health, contact Tapestry today at 828-490-4032.