Week 3: Mindful Eating


As you follow this Mindfulness course, I hope you are beginning to see more ways which you can begin to incorporate the concept of mindfulness into various aspects of your life. This week, I will be focusing on the idea of eating Mindfully.

What do you think ‘mindful eating‘ is? Have you ever heard of this concept before? Have you ever practiced eating mindfully, or is it something which you already do on a daily basis?

Wherever you stand in relation to mindful eating, be it a complete newcomer to the term, or a mindful eating master, I hope you are able to learn something from this post and deepen your understanding and ability to eat mindfully. If there is one thing which you take from reading my writing, let it be the power to listen to your body and the awareness it brings to your senses.

What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating relies upon using mindfulness meditation to reach a state of full attention to your experiences, cravings and physical cues when eating [1]. Regular engagement in this practice allows you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions with more conscious, healthier responses [2], making it easier for you to really tune in and listen to what your body is feeling.

There are a number of approaches which eating mindfully involves, from eating slowly with no distractions, listening to hunger cues and eating only until you feel satiated to learning to appreciate your food. It draws in on your senses, engaging the taste, texture, sounds and colours of the foods you consume. This may appear alien at first, you may feel a tad silly focusing on your senses each time you eat, but as with all other aspects of mindfulness; it is a journey, a process which requires practice.

By honing in on how what you eat makes you feel – both physically and mentally – and how different foods, flavours, textures and even smells create different emotions and sensations within your body. How where you eat, who you are surrounded by and what time you choose to eat all contribute to holistic wellness of your being.

As you embark on the journey of mindful eating, you learn to eat intuitively. Eating as and when you are hungry, listening to hunger cues and acknowledging non-hunger (emotional) triggers [3]. Using the breath and an open mind to distinguish the between hunger cues, you become more aware of what is best for your own body. You begin to really enjoy the taste of food, and are free to establish how much better eating a healthy, balanced array of nourishing foods makes you feel. You may find yourself making healthier food choices, noticing that unhealthy food isn’t actually as tasty as you thought it was, nor does it make you feel very good.

By eating mindfully, you restore your attention and slow down, making eating an intentional act instead of an automatic one.

When you are more present in the moment, you can enjoy the food you’re eating more. You learn to stop eating when you’re full and never reach that bloated sensation at the end of your meal. You become to express gratitude for the food you eat, becoming aware of how it nourishes your body, feeling content and positive at how the food you eat provides your mind, body and soul with the energy it needs to thrive each day. You become aware of how when and what you eat influences your mood and energy throughout the day. Mindfully, you become aware that fuelling your body with positive energy, results in the radiation of positive energy. It’s about this balance, the input and output equation, which has the power to transform your physical and mental wellbeing.

By changing the way you think about food, the negative feelings that may be associated with eating are replaced with awareness, improved self-control and positive emotions [4, 5, 6, 7, 8].

How to practice Mindful Eating?

Following the 4 simple steps I have put together below, your journey of mindful eating should be made a little more easier. Begin by eliminating any distractions which could interfere with your meal i.e. by turning off the TV and putting down your phone. By eating in silence, away from technology and things which are likely to instigate thought processes it allows you to approach your food with a clear mind and really focus on what you are eating/how it makes you feel. It’s great to eat with the company of others, set aside a time where you can all sit down together as a family and appreciate one another company.

As you take hold of your knife and fork (or whatever cutlery you have planned to use) notice your grip, ensure that before you begin to eat, you are ready to eat and feel hungry. Ask yourself why you’re eating. Are you actually hungry? Moderation is also an essential component of mindful eating, be sure that you have plated up the correct portion size and actually like the food you are about to eat.

Eat more slowly and be sure not to rush your meal. Try to slow down by consciously putting your cutlery down in between bites. There is no hurry. There is only the present moment. To help you practice this, make sure to allow enough time to enjoy the meal. Eating slowly will also help you to notice when you are feeling pleasantly satisfied. Mindful eaters practice the former so that they are not overtaxing their bodies — or overtaxing the planet’s resources — by consuming more food than they need.

In Chinese medicine, it is recommended to eat only until you are 80 percent full and never to “top off your tummy,” because this weakens the digestive power of your stomach and intestines, putting too much stress on them over the long haul.

Be aware of your body as you eat. When you eat mindfully, you are relaxed and calm. There is no rush to attend to other tasks; there is no hurry. Chew thoroughly and engage all six senses. Notice the sounds, colors, smells and textures as well as your mind’s response to them, not just the taste. When you put the first bite of food in your mouth, pause briefly before chewing and notice its taste as though it was the first time you had ever tasted it. With more practice in engaging all of your senses, you may notice that your tastes change, increasing your enjoyment of what you may once have perceived as “boring” health foods.

Consciously taking smaller bites and chewing them well can help you slow down your meal as well as allowing you to fully experience the taste of your food. It can also help improve your digestion, since the process of breaking down our foods begins with enzymes in the mouth. Chew each bite until the food is liquefied in your mouth; that may be 20 to 40 times, depending on what you are eating. Chewing well allows your tongue and palate to taste the food better. Once you have swallowed this bite, you will still be able to savor the wonderful taste that the food offers you. Focus on how the food makes you feel, and when you are starting to feel full, listen to your body.

To begin with, it is a good idea to pick one meal per day, to focus on these points. Once you’ve got the hang of this, mindful eating will become more natural and then you can focus on implementing these habits into more meals throughout your day.

1. Quiet
2. Prepare
3. Slow down
4. Be aware.

Further help
There are a number of workshops designed to teach mindful eating located all around the world (Click Here to view these)

There are also a number of good books which I would greatly recommend:
– Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung
– Eating Mindfully by Susan Albers
– Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Lansink
– Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays

With Love,
Grace x

[1] Bishop et al. (2004). Mindfulness: A Proposed Operational Definition. J Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, Vol. 11(3), pp.230-241.
[2] Sears, S., Kraus, S. (2009). I think therefore I am: cognitive distortions and coping style as mediators for the effects of mindfulness meditation on anxiety, positive and negative affect, and hope. J Clinical Psychology, Vol. 65(6), pp.561-73.
[3] Dalen, J., Smith, B. W., Shelley, B. M., Sloan, A. L., Lehigh, L., Begay, D. (2010). Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complement Ther Med, Vol. 18(6), pp.260-4.
[4] Kattermanm, S. N., Kleinman, B. M., Hood, M. M., Nackers, L. M., Corsica, J. A. (2014). Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: a systematic review. Eat Behav. Vol. 15(2), pp.197-204.
[5] O’Reilly, G. A., Cook, L., Spruijt-Metz, D., Black, D. S. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions for obesity-related eating behaviours: a literature review. Obesity Rev, Vol. 15(6), pp.453-61.
[6] Christaki, E., Lokkinos, A., Costarelli, V., Alexopoulos, E. C., Chrousos, G. P., Darviri, C. (2013). Stress management can facilitate weight loss in Greek overweight and obese women: a pilot study. J Hum Nutr Diet, Vol. 26 (1), pp.132-9.
[7] Vicennati, V., Pasqui, F., Cavazza, C., Pagotto, U., Pasquali, R. (2009). Stress-related development of obesity and cortisol in women. Obesity (Silver Spring), Vol. 17(9), pp.1678-83.
[8] Godsey, J. (2013). The role of mindfulness based interventions in the treatment of obesity and eating disorders: an integrative review. Complement There Med, Vol. 21(4), pp.430-9.

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