First of all then, what is mindful eating and why is it important? Simply put, ‘mindful eating’ is the practice of applying mindfulness to your eating habits.
Why is it important? Well, we all eat. Whether you regard food as an exciting part of your day or view it simply as ‘fuel’, you make contact with food all the time. Eating well can be tricky, our lives are very busy and we are fed so many conflicting messages about what is good for us and what is not. Because of these things it very easy to develop habits that maybe aren’t so great; eating impulsively, obsessively or emotionally. The notable thing about these habits is that they are all passive. The simple act of paying attention to what you put into your body, why you do it, how it makes you feel, can have a real positive impact on your health and wellbeing.
Paying attention to your eating habits in this way can seem alien to begin with, but if you persevere, soon enough it will become routine. There are many approaches to mindful eating, rooted in Zen, Buddhism and Yoga (to name a few). However, here we have some simple contemporary ideas to help you to begin eating more mindfully.
1. Eat slowly
Digestion is a complex job for the body, and wolfing your food down doesn’t help! Slowing down allows you time to chew properly, breaking down your food and making it less stressful for your body to digest. It also helps your body relax and gives your mind the opportunity to consider what you are eating.
2. Experience your food
Now that you have a little more thinking time available make an effort to experience your food. What does it look like? How does it smell, taste and feel?
Paying attention to your eating experience is all the trickier if you are distracted. Do your best to get rid of those distractions; turn off the TV, put your phone in the other room, switch the radio off. Do your best to make the moment just about you and your food.
4. Listen to your body
Return to your body. Are you actually hungry? Many of us eat out of habit, or as a reaction to emotional stimuli. Question those impulses. Does your body actually need food at this moment or are you craving food for another reason? Work out your triggers. Another thing to think about is whether you are full or not. We can sometimes over-eat in an effort to finish a plate or because we are enjoying the sensation of eating. It is good to recognise when you are full and make an effort only to eat until you are genuinely sated.
5. Your emotions
Most of us have some kind of emotional connection to food. Try to notice when you are eating as an emotional reaction and perhaps begin to question those habits. Also try to address those times where you feel anxious or guilty about food, attempt to put less pressure on yourself. Eating for your wellbeing is not just about ‘eating green’ all the time, sometimes that chocolate bar is exactly what your body needs!
6. Is it good for you?
This is not about judging yourself every time you eat a bowl of chips. It is all about noticing what you are eating and trying to consciously note what you are eating in general and maintaining a healthy balance throughout your daily life.
7. Appreciate your food
The look, taste, smell and texture should be appreciated, of course. But appreciating your food also includes thinking about where your meal comes from. Who grew it? Did the animals involved have a good life? What was involved in getting it from production to plate? Who prepared it? Have a thought for all of the effort involved in putting this food in front of you.
The art of mindful eating really is worthwhile. Give it a go and see what an amazing difference it can make to your life.
By Chris Thomson
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