Six steps to mindful eating

Are you snacking constantly, eating when bored or anxious, or reaching for foods you know don’t serve you? A(nother) diet is not the answer. Instead, try mindful eating - a sustainable approach to food that supports positive mental and physical health! 

Mindful eating is a practice, based on Buddhist principles, that encourages us to be present and aware when eating so that we can make conscious food choices that honour our health goals.

Unlike diets, mindful eating focuses on how (and why) we eat, rather than on what we eat, because when it comes to health and weight, food is only one part of the picture. This approach encourages us to tune into hunger, fullness and satisfaction; to identify which foods suit our body best (no more fads!) and it fosters a more curious, compassionate mindset, which is vital for mental health.

Interested? Simply follow the strategies below.  

  1. 1. Eat without distraction

Consuming food while driving, working, watching TV or scrolling a phone, can have detrimental effects on our wellbeing, impacting digestion, concentration, mood and of course, weight. To help break this habit, eat at least one meal or snack a day sitting at a table without multi-tasking. It may feel uncomfortable, but stick with it…

  1. Slow down

When you wolf down your meals, you’re more likely to overeat, experience digestive discomfort and have poor nutrient absorption. You also tend to “miss” the eating experience and sacrifice an important opportunity to check in with your mind and body. To slow down, sit when you eat, use a plate, lower cutlery between mouthfuls and try eating with your non-dominant hand.   

  1. Chew more 

Chewing is such an important part of the digestive process as it triggers the stomach to produce the enzymes and acids necessary to break down food. Skip this step and you place enormous strain on the digestive system and other organs. This can lead to indigestion, bloating, burping, heartburn and lethargy after meals. From a mindful eating point of view, the more you chew, the more time and space you give yourself to register fullness too. 

  1. Listen to your body 

As babies, we instinctively know when we’re hungry and full, but we lose this intuitive ability as we age, largely because we learn to eat according to a clock and food rules come into play. Mindful eating encourages you to reconnect with your body and explore what hunger, fullness and satisfaction feel like for you. The goal is to eat when hungry (not ravenous), to stop when comfortably full and to choose foods that satisfy you.

  1. Practise gratitude 

We spend so much time analysing the past or stressing about the future that we’re seldom in the present. As a result, we lose touch with the good in our life. Gratitude helps anchor us in the “now”. It forces us to slow down, take notice and appreciate. For this exercise, practice gratitude during a meal. Be thankful for the food you’re eating, where it came from, the person who prepared it, and so on.

  1. Indulge mindfully 

There is no such thing as “perfect eating” – our appetites naturally ebb and flow and our body’s nutritional needs change. Having a healthy relationship with food, weight and body image requires flexibility and adaptability, not guilt and judgement! If you’re going to eat something you consider an indulgence, make the most of the experience by engaging all your senses and savouring every bite! How you approach the indulgence in your head will determine how the body receives it.

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