Mindful Eating 

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is the act of eating with awareness, attention, and intention. With each spoon or bite you take, there is intentionality. Food critics understand this concept very well. With mindful eating, you pay attention to your experiences while eating, take time to savor each bite, and make an effort to understand the complexity of the flavors present. This eventually helps you develop a healthier relationship with food.

The goal of mindful eating is to enjoy food. But beyond the consumption of the food itself, mindful eating may also include buying the ingredients, prepping the meal, and how you serve it. 

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What mindful eating is not 

Some people may confuse mindful eating with other eating approaches. Gaining a clear understanding of what the concept is not can help you distinguish it from others and to incorporate it into your daily life successfully. Here are four things mindful eating is not:

1. Dieting: Mindful eating is not the same as dieting. In dieting, you restrict your food intake or follow a specific eating pattern. Mindful eating is about developing a healthier relationship with food instead.

2. Restrictive: Mindful eating encourages flexibility. You can enjoy foods from any and every food type. It is an adaptable approach that encourages listening to your body’s needs and responding to your hunger and fullness cues.

3. A quick fix: Mindful eating is a long-term process. Whatever it helps you achieve cannot be done overnight. Instead, it is a gradual approach to developing a healthier relationship with food and your body.

4. Only for weight loss: Mindful eating’s primary focus is cultivating a healthier and more enjoyable eating experience. It is not aimed at weight loss, but it could be a by-effect. 

Differentiating mindful eating from mindless eating

In mindful eating, you are:

  • Paying attention to hunger and fullness cues: You eat just enough to satiate that hunger when you feel hungry. 
  • Savoring each bite: This is intentional eating. It requires you to eat slowly while paying attention to every bite and noticing the food’s flavors, texture, and aroma. 
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  • Eating without distractions means your meal time is strictly a meal time. Your focus is on the meal before you and nothing else happening–whether on your phone or the TV. 
  • Honoring physical needs: When planning your meal and prepping the food, you consider the potential benefits or side effects before eating. You are not eating just anything. Instead, you are eating what your body needs. 
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  • Developing a positive relationship with food: You consider the disposition of your mind towards food by appreciating it more and being more thankful for the provision. 

In mindless eating, you are:

  • Eating on autopilot, without awareness: You eat more on-the-go foods than proper meals and are often multi-tasking while eating. 
  • Ignoring hunger and fullness cues: Here, you don’t eat when hungry; even when you do, you tend to eat more than your body needs.  
  • Gobbling down food quickly: Probably to save time, you scarf down your meal in minutes without allowing yourself to appreciate the flavors present. 
  • If you don’t pay attention to taste, texture, or smell, eating becomes more of a chore. For instance, you might finish the meal without noticing the coconut-infused flavors or crunchier fries. 
  • Eating in front of screens or while doing other activities: Your attention is split between the plate of food before you, the movie on the TV, and the phone call you’re on.
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  • Using food as a coping mechanism for emotions: Instead of eating when you feel hungry, you resort to food when you feel stressed, happy, tired, or sad.

Benefits of mindful eating 

Mindful eating is beneficial for two major reasons; the health benefits it has and the increased food satisfaction it brings.

It is good for your health.

When you eat mindfully, you tend to eat less impulsively. You also tend to eat more healthy foods because your need to eat does not come from emotions but from a body signaling of hunger and your food choice will be one that considers your body’s needs and what will benefit it. 

Mindful eating helps improve your digestion and reduce weight. When you eat hurriedly or too quickly, you are more likely to miss your body’s signal of fullness. Eventually, you eat more portions than necessary, contributing to your body weight. Furthermore, side effects like bloatedness, heartburn, and indigestion may also arise from overloading yourself with food. 

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Increased food satisfaction 

For a better appetite and meal satisfaction, savoring the flavor and texture of the meal, as well as the aroma, all come into perspective. Before you take a spoon of that meal, how about you sniff it a little to take in the aroma? Careful chewing allows you to relish the meal and appreciate it better. 

It also helps you to understand your relationship with food. Certain foods could make you feel bloated or queasy. Paying attention to what you eat and the flavors present could help you detect those foods easily. 

You can also realize the flavors you prefer to find in a meal. If you are aware that pineapple-flavored foods make you more satisfied with a meal, you can opt for such foods when you’re at a restaurant so you enjoy your money’s worth. If on the other hand, nut-flavoured foods taste off to you, you will make more informed choices when choosing a meal. 

Ways to practice mindful eating

1. Eat slowly: Take small bites and chew slowly. Doing this allows you to pay more attention to the flavors and textures of the meal. It also helps you notice your feelings of satisfaction. You may need to take breaks in between bites to assess your feelings of hunger or satiation. 

If you normally eat fast, it may be difficult to hop on this one but with conscious effort, you can make it work.

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2. Don’t multitask: Whether it is work-related or just a relaxation activity, pend all other activities when it is mealtime. Let your mealtime be strictly about eating. You can do this by eating at a dining table and leaving your phone in your room or the sitting room while you eat. Or simply turn off the TV and put away your phone while you eat.

3. Try new foods:  A new experience is one way to get your brain (mind) actively involved in something. Experiment with new flavors or foods in general to keep your brain engaged in the meal while you eat. 

4. Keep a food diary: Keeping a food diary could help you explore your relationship with food better. Keep records of foods that make you feel uneasy or uncomfortable, the ones that you enjoyed very much, the foods that made you feel vibrant and energetic, and the ones that made you less active. Doing this also contributes to you making healthier food choices. 

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Remember, mindful eating is a journey, and it’s essential to be patient with yourself as you develop new habits and a healthier relationship with food.

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