The term "mindful eating" gets thrown around a lot, for it's more than just paying attention to your chewing and eating slower. It's truly allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through your food selection and preparation, while respecting your own inner wisdom.
Mindful eating involves using all your senses to choose which food to eat, that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body. You also acknowledge your response to these different types of foods without judgement, whether it's good or bad. Most importantly, you become aware of physical hunger and fullness cues, so you can properly decide when to begin and end eating. If you're more intrigued now, try these six ways to practice mindful eating yourself.
Know Your Hunger Signals
It's easy to eat because you're bored, sad, or simply want to. However, mindful eating involves you actually responding your body's needs and becoming aware of your personal hunger signals. Therefore, rather than just eating when we get emotional signals, see if your stomach is growling, your energy is low, or you're feeling a little lightheaded. Too often, we eat when our mind tells us to, rather than our bodies. Listen deeply to your body’s signals for hunger to practice mindful eating, and learn what your emotional hunger triggers are.
Let Your Body Catch Up To Your Brain
A big part of practicing mindful eating involves your mind and body communicating to get the best nutrition. Slowing down while you eat is one of the best ways to do this. Your body actually sends its "full" signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often overeat. However if we slow down, you can give your body a chance to catch up to your brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount. Simple ways to slow down our eating habits is simply sitting down to eat, chewing each bite 25 times or more, and setting your fork down between bites. By doing this, you'll actually stop eating when your body says it's full.
Develop Healthy Eating Environments
As mentioned above, it's true that actually sitting down to eat has an impact on mindful eating practices. We eat mindlessly by eating at random times, random places, and wandering around our kitchen inside our fridge and cabinets. By not developing healthy environmental cues, our bodies can get confused about what and how much to eat, and wires our brains for new cues for eating that is not always ideal. If you eat at consistent times and places, you can boost both your mind and body's health, help your mood, and sleep schedule altogether. To develop a healthy eating environment, sit down at a table, put food on a plate or bowl (don't eat it out of a container), and use utensils (not your hands). This sounds silly, but many of us don't do these things, so it's time to become more aware of it. It also helps to eat with others to share and get some healthy connection, while eating slower and enjoying the food and conversation more.
Understand Your Motivations With Food
Are you eating food because they're emotionally comforting or nutritionally healthy? It's a tricky balance, but you must understand your motivations and find foods that are nourishing, satisfying, and comforting. When we slow down and eat healthy foods like raisins (this is a prime example used with mindful eating), we often enjoy them more than the story we tell ourselves about healthy foods. Then as we practice eating healthier and a greater variety of foods, we are less inclined to binge on our comfort foods.
Connect Deeply With Food
Maybe people just think of food as an end product, when you should be thinking where food comes from in order to eat mindfully. Eating offers an incredible opportunity to connect us more deeply to the natural world, the elements, and to each other. Stop and consider all the people that were involved in preparing your next meal, the cultural traditions that brought you to this food, the recipe that was passed on, and everything that supports it. By expressing your gratitude, you'll begin to make wiser choices about sustainability and health in your food and for the whole planet.
Pay Attention To Your Plate
Many people are distracted while they eat, when you should really be attending your plate more and paying attention to what's in front of you. If you multitask while eating, you're not able to listen deeply to your body's needs and wants. When we're distracted, it becomes harder to listen to our body’s signals about food, and can easily over-eat or under-eat without realizing it. Practice mindful eating, and you'll never eat food the same again.