The Mindful Eating Movement

Sunday, 11 Oct 15

These days we’re so over-saturated with information on what to eat, we’ve all become amateur nutritionists. However far too little attention is focused on how to eat.

Mindful eating is based on ancient Buddhist practice and has become a modern day trend, gaining strong momentum recently. It is supported by a growing body of science, which suggests that rather than obsessing on what you’re eating, focusing on being mindful throughout the entire eating experience can be helpful for weight management, treating eating disorders and generally to help move toward making healthier food choices.

Mindful eating is:

  • Living in the moment. Paying full and complete attention to the experiences of eating and drinking, both internally and externally and without judgement 
  • Trusting your inner wisdom to choose foods with deliberate intention 
  • Having no distractions whilst eating to allow total focus on the occasion 
  • Basing food decisions on physical cues by tapping into true hunger and appetite signals (not emotional or environmental ones) 
  • Using all senses, noticing flavours, textures and colours of food whilst eating 
  • Recognising your responses to foods such as likes, dislikes, desires, cravings 
  • An awareness of the food environment, where food comes from, how it’s sourced and the impact of our food choices on those systems.

Mindful eating can be helpful at all stages of the eating journey. It allows you to choose foods you really feel like as opposed to what is there or what you think you should be eating, making you feel more satisfied with your food. When eating, slow and deliberate mouthfuls and chewing means allowing time for food to be digested and broken down and stopping when satisfied rather than ploughing through until you’re stuffed. Not to mention avoiding the phenomenon of ‘the disappearing food’ – which often occurs when we’re engrossed in another task at the same time and before we know it the whole plate/ packet/ serving has disappeared!

Here are some tips to get you started on Mindful Eating:

  1. Shut off the devices
    TV, phones and Internet are such a distraction and so often we eat whilst doing other things, not focused on the eating experience. This is where we are in danger of overeating and simply not even recognising if we’re enjoying what we’re eating. 
  2. Draw on your nutrition knowledge
    You don’t need to be a nutritionist to have a basic idea of what to eat and not eat. Use this as a foundation for your eating and consciously create an environment at home and work that will facilitate making healthy choices. 
  3. Pause
    Take a deep breath and just take a moment before you eat. Are you eating because of hunger or a craving? The best way to tell the difference is a craving is for one type of food, comes on quickly and is experienced in the mouth, such as salivation. Hunger on the other hand can be for a variety of foods, comes on quite slowly and is felt in the stomach, such as grumbling and an empty feeling. 
  4. Eat Slowly
    This doesn’t mean chewing every mouthful 26 times, but eating slower allows time to appreciate and tap into your experiences with the food, allow time for the food to be digested properly and have more opportunity to stop eating once satisfied. A good tip is to put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls.
  5. Pay attention to your senses
    When you’re eating, think about the temperature, smell, texture of the foods you’re eating – is it cold and fresh, warming, sour and astringent, do the smells conjure up a memory?

The hugely successful ‘Headspace’ meditation App has a new part to it on mindful eating - an amazing tool to get you started.

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