Do you often forget what you had for dinner? Have you bitten your finger because you didn’t realise that you’d finished your sandwich? Can you remember how good (or bad!) your breakfast tasted? Do you often feel bloated or that you’d eaten too much?
Any of these sound familiar? Then you need to MASTER the ART of MINDFUL EATING and get out of autopilot.
Here are a few more INDICATIONS that you are not ENGAGING with your food:
Feeling GUILTY because you’ve eaten too much
EMOTIONAL eating – bored, stressed, upset, anxious
Not TASTING your food
MINDLESS or unconscious eating while watching TV or being on your phone
Not listening or recognising HUNGER and FULLNESS signals
For most, the main aim of mindful eating is to reduce OVER EATING. It can be a very POWERFUL tool to help you LOSE WEIGHT or feel less bloated / stuffed but, it can be so much more. Mindful eating can help you:
Increase ENJOYMENT of food
Improve DIGESTION – digestion begins in the mouth, if food isn’t chewed properly, the rest of your digestive system has to work harder
Being happy with LESS – being able to trust yourself to feel satisfied after a small amount of tempting food rather than having to scoff it all
Change your RELATIONSHIP with food
Acknowledge RESPONSES to food
Increase AWARENESS and provide INSIGHT around food and eating
LISTEN to what your body is telling you
The CONCEPT is more about HOW you eat rather than WHAT you eat. It seems easy to provide information on what to eat to stay healthy but we often forget that HOW you eat is just as IMPORTANT. This is certainly not a diet or having to give anything up – it’s a lifestyle and a life changing experience. The way I think of it is:
EAT TO LIVE, NOT LIVE TO EAT
Mindful eating is about experiencing food more intensely and bringing the ENJOYMENT back into food and eating. One of my favourite quotes is by Norman Vincent Peale. He said ‘I change my thoughts, I change my world’ which perfectly sums up mindful eating as it’s a change to the way we THINK rather than a PHYSICAL change.
Mindful eating originated from Buddhist concepts – meditating with food, increasing CONSCIOUSNESS and paying ATTENTION to our senses. I’m trying to give it a modern application to help people become more healthy and especially to help people LOSE WEIGHT. We need to get out of AUTOPILOT as most of us seem to go unconscious when we eat – like it’s a habit or necessary act rather than a pleasurable experience.
Most of us eat too FAST, so busy loading up your next forkful to taste or enjoy what we are eating. Mindful eating helps us pay attention to what we are eating which increases our SATISFACTION and enjoyment of food without OVEREATING. Think of it like driving a car without a break – scary stuff – well, we should be putting the breaks on when we eat. This will give your body time to react rather than simply acting out of habit. SLOWER EATERS = HEALTHIER WEIGHT.
Research has shown that the more times you CHEW your food, the less CALORIES you take in during a meal. So, take time and chew your food well – it takes around 20 minutes for your STOMACH to tell your BRAIN that you’re FULL. You are very likely to MISS the subtle signs of getting full if you eat quickly.
As food containers and PLATE SIZES grow, along with ever growing distractions and demands on our time, its bad news for conscious eating. Most of us PLOUGH through our meals like the cookie monster, not only because of time pressures but because we chose to eat things we enjoy. When we ENJOY what we’re eating, the next BITE immediately beckons and as soon as you know it – your meal has disappeared. If you need help with managing your portion sizes – I’ve got just the tool to help you – my QUIRKY HEALTHY PORTION WEIGHT LOSS PLATE. Available in my online shop It can even be personalised to remind you of your goal!
I often find that people trying to lose weight have adopted very RESTRICTIVE thinking. They think that ‘healthy’ eating can only consist of CERTAIN foods – cereal, fruit, salad, chicken and veg etc but, it’s this ALL-OR-NOTHING mentality that tends to trip people up at the starting line. Mindful eating can help by achieving maximum enjoyment and satisfaction from SMALLER AMOUNTS of food, rather then thinking in terms of the traditional CALORIE restrictions, calorie counting or DEPRIVING yourself.
Getting into the habit of mindful eating can be quite a CHALLENGE but with so many REWARDS for your efforts. Even if you only make one change towards mindful eating – you’ll reap the benefits. And remember, this isn’t just about ADULTS, these principles and ideas can easily be transferred to children. Children LEARN form their parents – they are ROLE MODELS so if they are applying these principles children will naturally adopt them too.
GETTING OUT OF AUTOPILOT, HOW TO ACHIEVE MINDFUL EATING:
1. QUALITY over quantity – much of our enjoyment can come from a smaller amount of food. Don’t serve yourself what you think you can ‘manage’ – serve yourself less and you’ll find you’ll still be satisfied. This will stop us from over eating and is key for weight loss
2. Put your CUTLERY DOWN in between mouthfuls. It’s easier to eat less when you take time over your meals. If you’re busy loading up your next forkful as your eating then you won’t have tasted that mouthful as you weren’t focusing on what you were eating. If it’s a snack, such as an apple this still applies – put the apple down between mouthfuls.
3. CONCENTRATE on each mouthful – think about the texture and the flavour. Think about how you’re enjoying it and how pleasurable it is to be eating this food.
4. Stop EATING AIR! Slow down. The faster you eat the more air you take in with each mouthful and this can make you bloated.
5. Don’t MULTI-TASK while eating – you should be focusing on your food rather than working, writing the shopping list or watching TV. Set aside time to eat without other distractions
6. Only eat at a TABLE. This is an easy way to minimise mindless munching. If you’re at a table you can sit down, relax and give your meal your full attention. This also incorporates the social joys of eating as a family and unconsciously teaching children about the importance of mindful eating rather than eating on a tray in front of the TV.
7. Don’t eat in front of a SCREEN – whether it’s a TV, phone, computer, games consol or tablet your not focusing on your food. This applies to work too.
8. CHEW! I’m not saying that you should follow the ‘you must chew your food 100 times per mouthful’ as that’s enough to give anyone jaw ache but do make sure you spend time chewing your food well. This will not only slow down the pace of your meal and help you enjoy it but it gives you digestive system a helping hand too.
9. COOK your own meals. Cooking can be relaxing and enjoyable. I like to know exactly what’s gone in to my food and having prepared my meal, it enhances the enjoyment of eating it. Check out my blog on ‘Are you in a food rut’ for inspiration
10. Don’t eat out of a PACKET. Always use a plate or a bowl – you are almost certainly going to over eat when you mindlessly grab out of a packet so serve yourself a portion in a bowl or plate so that you can control the amount your having and enjoy it. We eat with our eyes so give yourself the opportunity to see what you are eating rather than it coming straight from the packet
11. Don’t eat when your not HUNGRY or when your famished. If you’re not hungry – why are you eating? Don’t leave your hunger get too advanced as it will be more difficult to take control
12. Decide what looks the most APPETISING on your plate and eat that first. This will prevent you ‘saving the best until last’ as you may be tempted to over eat
13. Listen to your BODY. Are you hungry or thirsty – the majority of us mistake thirst for hunger which can significantly contribute to our calorie intake. Make sure you’re well hydrated – it can save you hundreds of calories
14. ASK yourself ‘Am I really hungry?’ Or are you looking for food for other reasons such as boredom, stress, low mood or thirst? Just because you SEE it doesn’t mean you have to eat it! Lear to say ‘no’ – it’s a very powerful tool.
START SMALL – like all new habits, these will take time to become ROUTINE so chose one change at a time and learn from slip-up’s. It’s not as easy as flicking a switch so don’t be hard on yourself. Even if you change a few things, they will help you become a mindful eater.