8 Ways to Practice Mindfulness while Eating
Practicing mindfulness is an extremely broad, life-encompassing term to describe the practice of sustaining attention on the body, the breath, thoughts, feelings, sensations, or whatever arises in each moment. The process of mindfulness can be applied to almost any daily activity and can greatly enhance one’s life with improved mental clarity, increased concentration, a greater sense of empathy, and oneness with one’s environment.
It is easy to get caught up in our daily routines. We wake up, we eat, we work, we eat, we watch, we play, we eat, and all too often we mesh some of these things together, multitasking the day away to be ‘productive’ so we can feel as though our time was used ‘proactively.’
It is quite common to have an unnatural, mindless relationship with our food. If you eat too fast, the feeling of being full may arrive once you’ve already eaten too much, since the brain takes up to 20 minutes to realize that you are full.
Many people eat with very little or no understanding of their hunger levels, and this impacts not only what we eat, but how we eat and how often we eat. It can be easy to mindlessly eat when we define our meals around the idea that we all need three meals a day. However, hunger and the need for nutrition are actually subjective to each individual person. If we listen to our bodies we may find what we are really craving is one big meal a day, with healthy snacking in between or eating one or two meals the next.
Our hormones, experiences, and environment reflect the sorts of foods we need to eat and how much we need to eat them. Therefore, it is only fitting to consume energy based on what we are doing and how we are feeling, which may mean rethinking the way we eat and paying close attention to the needs of our body and the cues it sends to us.
What is Mindfulness?
Practicing mindfulness is an extremely personal thing, you can choose to be mindful in millions of different ways – it isn’t exclusive to practices like yoga or formal meditation, you can even practice mindfulness while making your morning coffee! Informal mindfulness is when a sense of awareness and presence is brought into each moment of daily life without the need for long periods of serious contemplation, which is often the easiest way to reap the benefits of living mindfully.
How can I be mindful when I'm eating?
Mindfulness whilst eating helps to cultivate sensation and satisfaction with your food. By simply restoring your attention to your food, slowing down the process, and eating with an intentional act, rather than an automatic one, it becomes easier for you to distinguish between the emotional and physical cues of hunger.
Here are a few ways to replace old eating habits with new, conscious mindful habits:
DISTRACTED EATING (Emotional hunger)
- Eating for comfort, happiness, or release of stress
- Eating while scrolling social media, watching TV or multitasking
- Eating as a way to be social – eating to catch up with a friend
- Eating because you have free time during the day or because it’s “lunchtime”
- Finishing your meal as quickly as you can so you can continue with your day
- Avoiding certain foods or depriving your body of nutrition with the idea that this will help maintain a certain body shape
- Considering food as a catalyst for bad health and poor appearance
- Eating for the sake of eating
MINDFUL EATING (Physical hunger)
- Eating to alleviate an empty stomach or low energy levels
- Eating without any distractions
- Eating in silence, conversating with your meal instead
- Eating meals only when your body sends you signals that it needs energy, regardless of the time of day
- Setting time aside in your day to eat slowly, engaging your senses, noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes
- Noticing the way your body processed certain foods and the effects they have on your emotions and physical appearance
- Considering food as wholesome nutrition and learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food
- Eating as a ritual, as an appreciation for the sensations, and pleasure it can give you
Remember that there is no ‘right answer’ to mindful eating, there can only be guidelines.