We're hearing a lot about ‘mindfulness' lately — a state of mind that allows you to become more aware in the moment.
Although people begin to practice mindfulness for a range of reasons, it’s no surprise that many people are attracted to this practice. The benefits include reduced stress levels, an increase in positive emotions and positive thinking, as well as enhanced self-compassion. Those who are more mindful also often begin to experience key physical benefits.
Basically, when you fully experience the present, you're truly living — you're becoming more conscious and aware. After all, this is the ultimate goal of meditation. Far too often, we think about the bills that are due next week or the fight we had with our sister yesterday. The problem is, we're living in the past and future, forgetting about the present moment.
If you have already dabbled in the wonderful world of meditation, implement what you have learned at mealtimes. After all, when you learn to be present, you can better cope with some of the eating issues we face today.
What Does the Research Say about ‘Mindful‘ Eating?
Before we dive into how you can eat mindfully, let's focus on why you should.
For some, they simply want to make their mealtimes a more positive experience. Instead of everyone in the family grabbing a plate and heading into their bedrooms, eating mindfully will likely encourage a more rewarding interaction. Being present, means that everyone is enjoying their food, as well as each other's company. This, of course, is ideal in terms of positive mental and emotional health.
Focusing on physical results, eating mindfully can also act as one of the most effective ‘diets' out there. Unlike traditional diets which force people to count calories while enforcing food restrictions, eating mindfully can help people lose weight, reduce overeating, cope with anxiety surrounding food, and even improve symptoms of type 2 diabetes — all through a new and improved mindset.
This has been especially beneficial to binge eaters — as this disorder can lead to health complications, including obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. Within one review, published in Obesity Reviews, eating behaviors were targeted, including emotional eating, binge eating and external eating. This review included data from 21 peer-reviewed articles, that had been published in an English journal. It was found that 86 percent of the reviewed studies reported key improvements. Overall, it was concluded that the use of mindfulness-based interventions can help alter obesity-related eating behaviors, including those mentioned above.
The truth is, when you become more mindful of mealtimes, you not only begin to notice the different colors, textures, and smells — but you also become consciously aware of what you're putting in your mouth. When you chew more slowly and focus more on what you're eating, you will likely eat less and eat better.
How Do I Eat More Mindfully?
Remember, mindfulness focuses on your state-of-mind. Meaning, unless you put in the required effort, you won't really benefit. Like anything, it can take time to really harness the power of mindfulness and the more you practice, the more natural it will become.
To get you started, it's best to create new habits, routine, and rituals. That way, you will likely be more inclined to stick with it. What may have seemed odd at first, will soon become second nature.
You too can eat mindfully — so begin by practicing these simple tips.
6 Simple Steps for Being More Mindful when You Eat
1 – Chew, chew, chew
How often do you quickly scarf down your lunch? When you think about it, did you even really taste what you were eating? Did you enjoy it?
When aiming to make changes to your eating habits, chewing is likely one of the easiest and most effective ways to develop healthier routines. Tonight, start by chewing each bite 25 times. This will not only increase awareness, but also make sure that your food is easier to digest.
2 – Switch things up
If you're right-handed, start eating with your left hand. Wondering why?
Well, think about it — how often do you finish eating, yet you weren't really paying attention? Whether you’re watching TV or reading, your dominant hand works a little too well. When you use your non-dominant hand, you force yourself to pay attention to what you're doing.
Although you do not need to do this at every meal, it's a great way to increase initial awareness. Others prefer to eat with chopsticks, as this not only requires greater attention, but it will also likely reduce your overall food intake. After all, it takes your brain around 20 minutes to realize that you're full, so eating more slowly gives your brain a chance to catch up with your belly.
3 – Close your eyes
Have you seen those pitch-black restaurants popping up everywhere? They're really quite neat — forcing you to experience what you're eating without visual distractions. When you're at home, no need to turn out all the lights, but at least close your eyes for those first few bites.
As you rely on other senses, including taste, the true flavors of your food will begin to unfold. Well, they were always there, you just may have never consciously acknowledged them in their entirety. As you learn to really taste, smell and appreciate differing textures, you will learn to appreciate your food more — something which many of us take for granted.
4 – Practice gratitude
Speaking of taking food for granted, begin each meal with a moment of silence. Think about the food you're about to eat and how grateful you are to have access to fresh, nutritious food. This is the first step towards an enhanced well-being, based on improved psychological health.
When you learn to practice gratitude at mealtime, you'll likely begin to showcase positive emotions wherever you go. Believe it or not, when people learn to be more grateful, they experience less pain, are less affected by toxic emotions, and are even able to sleep better.
5 – Put your fork down
First of all, you should be sitting at a table. Treat mealtime as just that — a time frame dedicated to eating. Between every two bites, put your fork down. Use this time to benefit from a deep breath — or really pay attention to what's on your plate. What colors catch your eye? What do you smell?
This little break also gives you a chance to check in with yourself. Individuals who eat mindfully, do not eat until they're full. You should not need to unbutton your jeans. Learn to recognize when you're satisfied, and stop long before you feel too ‘stuffed' to move.
6 – Rethink your choices
If you go to grab a snack, stop for a moment. Before you rip open a granola, packed with added sugar, ask yourself, am I really hungry? If so, ask yourself again, is this the best food I can give my body now? Start to become more aware of the quality of your food.
There you have it, a quick guide to more mindful eating. All you need to remember is, “Mindful eating is a way to become acquainted with the guidance of our internal nutritionist.”
Megan is a DIY health & beauty addict. She’s committed to making her itsy-bitsy apartment chemical free and her diet as unprocessed as possible. You can find her work at Gold Mountain Beauty where she is responsible for the blog, Instagram and Pinterest.