Have you ever consumed a meal so quickly, you didn’t even taste it? Were you hungry then? Did you stop eating when you were full, or because there was no more food on your plate? Mindful eating is the latest “trend” that helps you become aware of these questions. It helps us understand our eating patterns and why we eat the way we do. We become more aware of our habits surrounding our food choices and how our external environment affects our internal body cues.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is a nonjudgmental way to discover new information about ourselves, and helps us in making more informed decisions in the future. It’s all about balance, awareness, acceptance, and understanding what your body truly needs. Mindful eating allows us to release old habits and food “rules” and use our internal hunger and satiety signals to regulate our eating behaviors. Our bodies are smarter than we think. They are well equipped to help us understand and balance our nutritional needs. We just have to be ready to listen.
What are the benefits?
Mindful eating makes us feel empowered in our food choices. When we listen to our bodies, we become aware of our natural feelings telling us we are hungry or we have had enough. It enhances our senses by appreciating how our foods feel, look, smell, taste, and sound when we take a bite. In our busy lives, it’s important to slow down every once in a while and take a breath – mindful eating can help us do just that. When we slow down, we can better consider why we choose certain foods – is it for health? Taste? Satisfaction? It helps us savor our food and feel more satisfied with each bite. Studies have shown that when eating mindfully, individuals experienced fewer food cravings, made more healthy choices, had a heightened sense of awareness, and increased self-acceptance. Balance is key, no right or wrong foods, or good or bad choices. Mindful eating allows us to become aware of what our bodies really need and when they need it.
Food for Thought
Consider these questions before you eat your next meal/snack to create a relationship between what we eat and how it makes our body feel.
Why? – Why do I eat?
This is typically the first question we consider – why am I about to eat? Am I eating because I feel hungry? Am I stressed? Am I bored? Am I happy? Does something smell really good? There are so many different reasons why people eat when they do. When practicing mindful eating, do a quick body scan and understand why you are about to eat.
When? – When do I eat?
When you eat could depend on the time of day or how your body feels. Are you eating because it’s 12:00pm and it’s “lunch time?” Does your body feel fatigued and in need of some energy? Are you out to dinner and everyone else is eating? When you eat could become a habitual part of your day. With mindful eating, it’s time to break those habits and become more in tune with your internal cues. Maybe it’s 12:00pm and you’re not hungry yet, or, it’s 11:00am and you are feeling sluggish. Each day may be different, and that’s ok.
Where? – Where do I eat?
Whether you are at home, work, school, or on the run, where you eat is something to think about. Are you sitting on your couch watching TV? Are you in the library finishing an assignment? Or are you in your car driving from one meeting to another? Research has shown that distractions during meals prevent us from enjoying our food. Even if it’s just for one meal, try to find time to slow down and enjoy what you are eating without any distractions.
What? – What do I eat?
What you eat could be based on food preferences, accessibility, and the nutritional quality. Mindful eating is a nonjudgmental way to decide what to eat. No more good or bad foods – all foods fit! By considering these questions and understanding how our body feels after eating certain foods, we can decide what to eat that will make us feel good!
How? – How much do I eat? How will I use this energy?
How much you decide to eat is a tricky question. Everyone is different and requires different amounts of food to fuel their body. For this question, use a hunger scale (1 being famished, 10 being “Thanksgiving full”)to assess how hungry you actually are. After you acknowledge this feeling and start eating, take a moment after a few bites and reassess – it can take our body 15-20 minutes to register that we are satisfied. Rushing to get more food without considering how hungry or full we are can lead to overeating or excess food waste. By slowing down and using mindful techniques, we can begin to understand how much food your body needs.
Now that you have eaten, how do you plan on using this energy? Will you use it to stay focused during your work day? To play with your kids when you get home? To fuel your evening workout? Food is fuel. How will you use it?
Come back next week for another post in our series on mindful eating!