Happy Wellness Wednesday Everyone,
Donna here to help you learn what mindful eating is all about and how it can help you keep your weight down and much more!
But first, why am I talking about eating mindfully anyway?
Eating is a natural, healthy, and pleasurable activity for satisfying hunger. However, in our food-abundant, diet-obsessed culture, eating is often mindless, consuming, and guilt-inducing instead. Mindful eating is an ancient mindfulness practice with profound modern implications and applications for resolving this troubled love-hate relationship with food.
So what is mindful eating?
Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food.
We also pay attention to the mind. While avoiding judgement or criticism, we watch when the mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what we are eating or drinking. We watch the impulses that arise after we’ve taken a few sips or bites: to grab a book, to turn on the TV, to call someone on our cell phone, or to do web search on some interesting subject. We notice the impulse and return to just eating.
Mindful eating also involves noticing when you feel like eating and pause to ask the question, “Am I hungry?”, you are able to observe your thoughts and choose how you will respond. Instead of reacting mindlessly, mindfulness gives you response-ability. That is how mindful eating empowers you to finally break old automatic or habitual chain reactions and discover options that work better for you.
Being mindful in relation to the way that we eat. It is really important to start becoming more in tune with your internal cues, your body telling you when you’ve had enough, when you’re satisfied with the meal rather than being responsive to external cues, seeing someone else eat something and wanting what they’re eating.
Understanding Mindful Eating—and Its Connection to Health
Mindfulness is the art of simply observing and taking note of what’s going on in the present moment—without hanging onto or judging it. In traditional mindfulness meditation, this translates to watching your thoughts and sensations as they arise and fall away, with a certain detachment. By becoming the witness to your mind and the thoughts flowing through it, you become a separate observer and can feel more at peace with the present.
When you apply mindfulness to eating, you simply observe every aspect of what you consume, which transforms even the simplest meal into a rich experience. But mindful eating offers so many more gifts than just relaxed, pleasurable dining! By becoming highly aware and attuned to your food choices, eating with intention can be a deeply calming practice with far-reaching benefits for physical, mental, and emotional health, including:
1. Reduced stress: As a meditative technique, mindful eating triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and relaxation response
2. Improved mood: Mindful eating can help lift you into a more peaceful and optimistic state of mind.
3. Healthier relationship with food: Mindful attention during meals can reduce urges to binge, or to eat when you’re not hungry.
4. Optimal weight: Research shows mindfulness practices such as mindful eating can help jettison excess pounds as well as reduce fat accumulation around the midsection.
5. More efficient digestion: Eating slowly and mindfully allows your body to better utilize nutrients—and helps your tummy feel comfortable after meals.
6. Healthy blood sugar and fat levels: After a one-year study, subjects who practiced mindful eating were able to lower fasting glucose and triglyceride levels.
7. Vibrant microbial health: All the other benefits of mindful eating set the stage for your friendly gut flora to thrive!
Creating Your Perfect Mindful Eating Practice
Mindful eating doesn’t require any special skills and there’s nothing mysterious about it—anyone who eats can do it (hint: that’s you!). There’s no need to be rigid about technique either. What all effective mindful eating techniques have in common is staying present in the experience. So feel free to experiment and tweak our basic practice outline until it feels just right for you:
1. Create an intentional eating space: Find a comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted—away from your computer, TV, phone, reading materials, projects, or other distractions.
2. Give yourself time: Allow at least 10-20 minutes to fully absorb your experience.
3. Check In with your body: Take a moment to breathe deeply and focus on the physical feeling of hunger. Where in your body do you feel the sensations? If you discover you’re not actually hungry after all, applaud yourself for that awareness, and postpone the rest of the exercise until genuine hunger pangs emerge.
4. Express gratitude: Become aware of the food in front of you and give thanks—in whatever way resonates with you—for the gift you’re about to receive.
5. Engage all your senses: Explore all the colors of the foods on your plate. Then, close your eyes, inhale, and experience your meal’s distinct aroma. If it’s appropriate, you may even want to pick up a piece of food in your fingers to experience its temperature and texture in your hands.
6. Savor the taste: When you’re ready, take that first bite. Hold the food in your mouth and become aware of its taste, shape, texture, and temperature. Then chew slowly and thoroughly, focusing on the feelings in your mouth. As you swallow, stay with the sensation of the food as it enters your esophagus, and follow it as long as you can.
7. Check In again periodically: Every now and then, notice how your body is feeling. Are you still hungry or are you beginning to fill up?
8. Conclude with gratitude: When you feel about 75 – 80% stop eating, close your eyes, and take a few more deep, centering breaths. Enjoy the contentment of being satiated, and in your own unique way, give thanks for the sustenance you’ve taken in.
If at any time your attention drifts elsewhere, just gently come back to your eating experience. And remember that one of the most powerful aspects of any mindfulness practice is becoming aware of when your attention has shifted—and then returning it to the here and now. Even if you have to bring yourself back over and over…and over again, this isn’t a sign of failure. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
What do I do now?
In my health coaching practice, I help clients discover what triggers them to eat when they eat, hunger or something else that needs to be nourished. Then I lead them through a step-by-step process to learn how to eat mindfully and to learn what to eat for their unique body type.
Email me to schedule your time to talk about how mindful eating can help you.
I’ll help you understand what’s blocking you from eating mindfully and I’ll show you how to get started.
To your health!