What does mindfulness have to do with eating?
Mindful eating is the practice of bringing more present moment awareness to the process of eating, and observing how the food we choose to eat affects our body, mind, and emotions.
How often do you mindfully eat a meal? Perhaps you practise a little more mind-LESS eating than you’d like?
Mindless eating occurs when we “check out” during our meals or snacks because our mind is distracted and lost in thoughts. We are not focused at all on what and how we are eating.
Mindless eating often takes place when eating is combined with another activity simultaneously, for example, writing an email or reading a magazine. For example, when we are watching TV and eating a packet of chips, only to discover soon after that you have eaten the whole packet without realising it. Or when we are sitting at work in front of the computer whilst repeatedly reaching for that packet of biscuits again and again.
Let’s face it, we have ALL been there at some point or another. We certainly don’t need another guilt trip about something we ate! There is more than enough criticism, pressure, and not-so-great eating advice placed on us throughout our lifetime.
There are also thousands of healthy eating blogs and recipes out there too, so there’s no shortage of information on WHAT to eat. There is, however, an absence of guidance on HOW we are, and could be, eating.
When eating mindfully, we are fully present and savour every bite — engaging all our senses to truly appreciate the food.
(Want to go back a step and find out what mindfulness is in general? Read more here.)
Mindful eating encompasses the concept of non-judgemental hunger, and fullness awareness, but also allows immediate focus on the act of eating.
As Dr Kristeller, the co-founder of The Center of Mindful Eating, explains “mindfulness can help bring balance into every aspect of how we eat. It involves cultivating a combination of inner wisdom (awareness of how our body and mind are responding), and outer wisdom (engaging nutrition information and recommendations to meet your own personal needs and preferences).”
There are a large number of reasons why we tend to eat mindlessly. I believe the main factor that contributes to our mindless eating habits is our fast-paced environment in which multi-tasking and rushing to get more done has become our norm. People no longer have (or make) the time to sit down and eat meals slowly and consciously.
Some of the problems that can arise from mindless eating include: weight gain, discomfort, indigestion, bloating, gas, overeating (that can influence a range of systems and process within the body, and lead to more severe health issues), feelings of guilt, shame, anger, lowered mood, feelings of tiredness or drowsiness, and an increase in stress.
Overall most people have become disconnected from their food and engage in unconscious food habits that are not always healthy. The health crisis we face in our society shows us that we are clearly doing something wrong when it comes to our current food and eating habits.
It’s not all bad news. Each of us has the ability to eat in a way that changes our relationship to food, and the way food impacts our lives on so many levels. We can do this by eating mindfully.
What are some of the benefits of eating with a mindful approach?
Studies have shown that mindful eating can:
- Help reduce overeating, binge eating (Kristeller, Wolever & Sheets, 2013) & emotional eating (Katterman, et al., 2014).
- Help you lose weight (Daubenmier, Kristeller, & Hecht, 2011).
- Encourages healthier eating and better food choices (Jordan et al., 2014).
- Help improve your digestion, and thus better absorption of nutrients
From personal experience I know I always enjoy my food more, and feel lighter and calmer after my meals when I practise mindful eating. I make better food choices, feel less guilt, and rarely ever overeat anymore! Whilst results are unique from person to person, many of those whom I have supported to try mindful eating have seen amazing, transformative results, and made it a permanent practice in their lives!
How to practice mindful eating?
3 ways to start practising mindful eating:
1) Turn the tv off, put your phone away, remove as many distractions as possible and then sit down to eat. No more eating on the go, or as you check your emails.
2) Eat your next meal while doing nothing else. It seems like a revolutionary concept in our day and age but it needs to be done to end mindless eating and its associated negative consequences.
3) Tune into your senses, what you can smell, hear, see, touch, and of course taste as you eat and drink. Eat slowly and notice how your body feels as you eat. The key is, don’t rush and keep the mind focused on the task at hand!
If there is one tip that stands out the most, it is to not multi-task while eating. When you eat, eat, and do nothing else!
There’s a Zen proverb that says, “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
Like most things in life, unless you personally try them you’ll never know if they’re worth doing! No harm can come from making more time to eat slowly with full awareness and focus. On the other hand, the benefits are endless!
Are you ready to start eating more mindfully? Join my email community below and receive access to my Mindful Living library filled with free resources to help you experience the benefits of mindfulness.
- Dr. Jean Kristeller, 2018, http://mb-eat.com/
- Kristeller J. L, Wolever R. Q. Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating binge eating disorder: the conceptual foundation. Eat Discord. 2011;19(1):49-61. https://www.mb-eat.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/kristeller-wolever-sheets-bed-in-mindfulness-2013.pdf
- Katterman, S. N., Kleinman, B. M., Hood, M. M., Nackers, L. M., and Corsica, J. A. Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review. Eating Behaviors, Volume 15, Issue 2, April 2014, Pages 197-204. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471015314000191
- Daubenmier J, Kristeller J, Hecht FM, et al. Mindfulness intervention for stress eating to reduce cortisol and abdominal fat among overweight and obese women: an exploratory randomized controlled study. J Obes. 2011;2011:651936. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21977314
- Jordan, C. H., Wang, W., Donatoni, L., and Meier, B. P. Mindful eating: Trait and state mindfulness predict healthier eating behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 8 October 2014, Pages 107-111. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914002396