It is the end of a stressful week, and you reward yourself for a job well done by eating your favorite dessert. You are unaware of the delicious food disappearing as you continue to browse the net or watch TV. Suddenly, you look down. Where did that dessert go? Disappointment and dissatisfaction set in. “That one just vanished! I need to have another one.” Then you hear your inner voice, “What are you thinking? One treat is enough! You know you’re trying to lose weight by eating better.” Thus begins the struggle over the simple and pleasurable act of eating. Eating food should not be a source of unhappiness but a source of pleasure. This can be achieved by mindful eating – focusing on the when, why, and how we are eating.
The fundamental reason for our imbalance with food and eating is that we’ve forgotten how to be present when we eat. The problem is not in the food or body’s fat cells. The problem lies in our minds. It lies in our lack of awareness of the messages coming from our body and from our mind. We eat mindlessly when we watch TV or read a book while eating and we forget what and how much we ate. Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating, both inside and outside the body, and also paying attention to the mind. Mindful eating helps us to be aware of what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. It helps us focus on the calories and nutrition we need without the mindless grazing we often do when bored, stressed, or distracted. It also helps us make wise food choices while learning to become aware of the hunger cues and not emotional triggers to eating.
Benefits of mindful eating:
- Increased enjoyment of food and more respect for what we eat.
- Reduced overeating which results in weight loss and improved health.
- Improved digestion.
- Being satisfied with less.
- More power of choice and control.
- Brighter mood and more energy.
- Improved mental capacities and reduced food-induced brain fog.
How to master the art of mindful eating:
Start small: Set realistic expectations. Choose one meal each day to practice and commit to eating it mindfully.
Stop multitasking at meal times: It’s really difficult to focus on eating if you are doing other things. Set aside time for eating and honor your food.
Eat only at the table: Get into the habit of only eating when you are sitting down and able to give the food your full attention and not eating while running around taking care of other chores or working.
Appreciate the appearance of the food: With distracted, mindless eating, we forget about the beauty of the food we eat. Take time to actually notice what we eat sets the scene for mindful eating.
Chew and eat slowly: Make sure you chew your food enough so that it is well broken down before you swallow. Eat slowly so your brain can get the message that your stomach is full.
Focus on each mouthful: Think about the flavor, texture, and even the sound of the food in your mouth.
Make time to do grocery shopping and prepare your own meals: The shopping and cooking process can be as relaxing and enjoyable as eating.
Go for quality, not quantity: By choosing smaller amounts of the best food you can afford, you will not only enjoy it more, you’re far more likely to be satisfied without having to overeat.
Mindful eating can be one of the most rewarding lifestyle changes. The old habits of eating and not paying attention are not easy to change. Lasting change takes time, and is built on many small changes. The trick is getting it to work for you in a fast-paced, distraction-filled modern world. The act of eating is sacred and does you and your body great benefit. It can improve your relationship to food, to your body, to the Earth, and to life itself. Mindfulness allows you to honor the food you eat, and thus honor and love yourself. It helps you to be in tune to what your body is telling you. When we are in a mindful space while eating, we will hear and feel when our body is full and not overeat.