Mindful eating stems from the broader philosophy of mindfulness, a widespread, centuries-old practice used in many religions. Mindfulness is an intentional focus on one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment. Mindfulness targets becoming more aware of, rather than reacting to, one’s situation and choices.
Eating mindfully means that you are using all of your physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices you make. This helps to increase gratitude for food, which can improve the overall eating experience. Mindful eating encourages one to make choices that will be satisfying and nourishing to the body. However, it discourages “judging” one’s eating behaviors as there are different types of eating experiences. As we become more aware of our eating habits, we may take steps towards behavior changes that will benefit ourselves and our environment.
The benefits of mindful eating
In general, mindful eating leads us to pick more nutritious foods, which has the added bonus of improving our overall eating habits. Incorporating mindful eating practices has been shown to have benefits for individuals including:
- a renewed sense of hunger and fullness
- weight loss management and maintenance
- improved self-esteem
- a sense of empowerment
How to incorporate mindful eating
Incorporating mindful eating practices into our lives can be challenging. We must modify our environment and alter our thought processes. The following strategies can help you successfully practice mindful eating and create long-term eating patterns.
- Ask and reflect. Before eating, ask yourself: am I hungry, am I thirsty, what do I want to eat/drink?
- Use smaller plates. The less you see, the less you eat. Smaller plates allow you to more easily control portion sizes.
- Don\’t clean your plate. Don\’t gorge yourself. It\’s okay to leave food on your plate. Stop eating when you feel full; save leftovers for later.
- Smaller serving utensils. Using smaller utensils encourages eating less food.
- Out of sight, out of mind. You can avoid second and third helpings by moving bowls and main dishes away from the table.
- Easy access. Keep healthy food choices, such as fruits and vegetables, easily accessible in cabinets, cupboards and the refrigerator to encourage healthy eating habits.
- Control portions. Buy items in smaller, single-serving packages to control overeating. Don\’t eat directly from a box or large bag.
- Eat when you are hungry. Let hunger cues guide your eating, not your emotions. Substitute a snack for physical activity until you are actually hungry.
- Keep a mindful eating journal. Write down what you eat and what is happening at the time to identify food triggers: hunger, stress, excitement or boredom.
- Slow down. During each meal, chew slowly and savor each bite. Try putting your fork down between bites to slow down your eating. Drinking water between bites also gives the body enough time to signal to the brain that it is satisfied, not satiated.
- Sit down and pay attention. Don\’t multitask. Take technology away from the table. If you eat at the table and not in front of the TV or computer, you will be better able to control the amount of food you have consumed.
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