Many of us become ‘mindless eaters’ over the years.
We tend to forget to focus on our meals when we’re eating. We may be multi-tasking – eating at our desk or watching a film – and those activities take more of our concentration than the process of eating.
This all results in over-eating, ignoring the body’s appetite signals telling us we’re now full and should stop eating, poor digestion (we don’t chew thoroughly so end up with indigestion) and we eat for the wrong reasons. The only ‘right’ reasons are because we’re hungry and we need fuel!
Mindful eating helps us to reflect on our eating habits and to become more aware of how we eat.
Some useful tips are:
- Chew food thoroughly before swallowing to aid digestion: Chew each mouthful 15-20 times.
- Eat slowly, place fork down between mouthfuls to try and slow your pace.
- Focus on your food when you eat – not on a newspaper/TV/Computer screen. Think about the taste of the food and about slowing down to savour it.
- Don’t overfill your plate – if food is there you’re tempted to finish it all, even if you don’t need to eat any more.
- Allow 20 minutes before thinking ‘I’m still hungry’ and reaching for more food. Your appetite hormones will signal your brain, but it takes 20 minutes for food to stimulate any trigger.
- Consider your reasons for eating – if it’s because you’re bored, fed up, or emotional you’ll probably pick up the wrong choices (foods to make you feel better ie sugar).
- Do you eat out of habit? eg ‘I always have something sweet in the evening’. Stop!!
- Only eat if you are hungry or you need fuel.
- Ask yourself – do I want this or do I need it? Only eat if you need it.
- This is a good question to have in mind when you’re food shopping too!
Journaling is another great way to examine more influences on your eating habits beyond just your food choices.
Keeping a Food Journal can help you develop Mindful Eating habits by simply asking yourself a few simple questions such as:
Why are you eating?
- Are you hungry, do you need fueling? (good reasons)
- Are you bored, depressed, feeling lonely? (emotional reasons)
- Because you always have a biscuit with your afternoon tea? (habit)
Do you eat differently in a social environment with friends?
- Does your behaviour conform to a group dynamic ie ‘they’re all having dessert so I will too’?
- Do you over-eat – while socializing you’re not paying attention to your food or listening to your body’s hunger signals so don’t stop?
Are you eating quickly without chewing and barely tasting the food?
Are you paying attention to your meal or are you watching TV, working on your PC?
Are you eating on the move instead of sitting and enjoying your food?
How do you feel after eating certain foods?
- Is there a physical effect (bloating, tiredness)?
- Do you feel remorseful, guilty, angry with yourself?
Learning to eat mindfully is a skill. And like all skills the more you practice the easier it becomes. So I would encourage you to have a go and to see how many new, healthy habits you can create!