Do you recall what your last meal was like? Where and when were you? Did you sit down and eat properly without distraction, or were you doing something else concurrently? Even if you didn’t do anything else, was your mind busy running through all sorts of things unnecessarily?
Maybe you have enjoyed a delicious meal at a beautiful restaurant with some friends. Maybe you and your friends have had a great conversation. This would be absolutely wonderful because social life and relationships are nourishing us emotionally.
In case there is something you wanted to change about how you eat, I hope this blog about mindful eating will be applicable wherever, whoever and whatever your meal involves. Before we go through various techniques and ideas, let’s go through some benefits of mindful eating.
The Benefits of Mindful Eating
Weight Management. This is an obvious one because mindfulness can increase awareness of both hunger and satiety cues from our body. By removing distractions, we would naturally pay more attention to the type and the amount of food we put into our body, thus reducing the likelihood of over-eating, binge eating or stress eating.
Greater Satisfaction. By taking the time to look, smell, taste and feel the texture of each bite, we create more opportunity to fully experience all the pleasures of food and to feel satisfied from the nourishment.
Better Digestion. Chewing our food more thoroughly and swallowing slowly can give our digestive system a better chance at breaking down the food properly, aiding the release of satiety hormones which can help avoid overeating.
Stress Reduction. By slowing down and focusing at our meal, we can help reduce the level of stress hormone, such as cortisol. A couple of studies suggest that high levels of cortisol may be associated with increased appetite and weight gain. (1) (2)
Healthier Food Choices. In line with weight management, mindful eating can help us become more aware of the quantity and quality of the food we consume. We would likely pay more attention to our overall nutrition and make healthier choices for a balanced diet.
How to Practice Mindful Eating
Pick any meal as the next opportunity to explore one or more of these ideas. Allow yourself to experience different aspects of the food you eat.
Mindful eating is always easily available to you.
You don't need a glamorous dinner setting, a takeaway burger in a busy place will do fine. Make it a fun exercise to learn something about your food choices, how your own body and mind respond to them.
Sight. Imagine you have never seen this food before. What are the shapes, sizes and colours in your food? How was the food grown, raised or caught?
Smell. Bring the food close to your nose and smell it. Try to describe the scents and flavours without naming them.
Salivate. Before putting the food in your month, take a moment to notice any saliva production. Notice how your mind and body our connected.
Touch. How does the food feel on your tongue. Describe any sensation or experience.
Delivery. How do you bring the food into your mouth? Is it with a fork or spoon or a pair of chopsticks. Notice the coordination of movement and how the food is received.
Taste. After taking the food in, chew slowly and pay attention to the taste. Identify all the flavours your experience.
Texture. As you bite and chew your food slowly. Notice how the texture and consistency changes.
Swallow. Observe what is involved as the food gets down to your stomach. Feel your body getting the nourishment.
Breathe. Pause for a moment, attend to your breathing and your senses - sight, touch, smell, taste, sound and…
Satiety. Don’t forget to feel your satiety. Make a connection between what you do and how you feel.
It doesn't matter what you eat, mindfulness is applicable whether it is gourmet or takeaway. If you want to eat well, eat like a toddler. Be present. Do one thing at a time.
Hope you'll find this exercise fun and beneficial to your well being. If you'd like to incorporate more healthy habits into your life, feel free to get in touch for a consultation.
Epel, E., Lapidus, R., McEwen, B., & Brownell, K. (2001). Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 26(1), 37–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0306-4530(00)00035-4
Steptoe, A., Kunz-Ebrecht, S. R., Brydon, L., & Wardle, J. (2004). Central adiposity and cortisol responses to waking in middle-aged men and women. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 28(9), 1168–1173. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0802715