Eating mindfully can be hard work and most people will never experience the benefits of mindful eating for themselves. I’ve been mindfully eating for quite some time now and although its difficult I have experienced some amazing benefits first hand.
When You Put In The Work You Will Reap The Rewards
Eating has in many ways become a mindless task, we eat on the run, behind the wheel or at our work meetings. We have become a society of mindless eaters who have developed an unhealthy relationship with food. Mindlessly eating can lead to many health risks such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Eating mindfully promotes health and overall well being while simultaneously improving our relationship with food.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating, is eating with awareness. It is not a diet or weight loss plan but a mental approach to life that encourages you to live in the present moment, and become fully alive to all that you do.
Mindfully eating helps you to reach a state of full awareness with all your food experiences, cravings and senses while eating. When we eat mindfully we consciously choose to eat food that is satisfying and nourishing for our body. We become much more aware of hunger and fullness cues so we eat according to our bodies needs and focus on our health and well being.
Why Is Mindful Eating Important?
We are constantly bombarded with diets, eating plans and weight loss programs that promise a quick fix to weight loss. While some of these diets have merit, what is often left out of the plan is addressing the importance of ones relationship with food.
It is easy to tell someone to restrict calories and eat better, but if you do not address their underlying eating behavior they will not be able to maintain the diet. This usually leaves people feeling overwhelmed and depressed because they fail. Eating mindfully involves acknowledging that everyone’s eating experience is unique and more attention must be placed on our relationship with food.
Improving Your Relationship With Food
Eating use to be an event. In the past we would have scheduled eating times, where we would sit down at a table for a meal. Now we eat when we can and often quickly, while rushing from point A to point B. We have such busy lives that ready-made meals and take-out are convenient to us.
The problem is that when we eat this way we mindlessly consume more food than our body requires and the food we are eating is high in sugar, processed and unhealthy. Due to our new way of eating we have trained our body to either eat when we are not hungry or we starve ourselves until the next available meal. This completely destroys our ability to differentiate between our hunger cues.
Mindfulness puts us back in control of how we eat and re-establishes our relationship with our hunger and fullness cues. It enables us to start regulating how much we eat and teaches us to enjoy our meal experiences more.
The Benefits Of Eating Mindfully
Not only will eating mindfully improve your relationship with food it promotes weight loss, reduces depression, anxiety and other negative feelings associated with food.
1. Aids in poor digestion and absorption of nutrients
When we start eating with awareness we tend to chew food for a longer period of time. By doing this we are braking down the food into much smaller pieces. Your body prefers to digest smaller pieces of food because it can extract more of the nutrients with less of the work.
If we have bigger pieces of food there’s more work involved in extracting nutrients and digesting. Not chewing effectively is one of the causes of poor digestion. If your body has to work too hard to digest your food it can’t absorb nutrients efficiently.
2. Increases enjoyment
When eating mindfully all our attention is focused on the task at hand. Flavors become more vibrant, dynamic and pleasurable. When I first started mindful eating I was blown away by the difference in flavor I experienced in foods that I had eaten many times before.
The reason everything tastes so amazing when we eat with awareness is because you cut out all distractions and live in that moment, just you and your food. You will notice textures, fragrances and flavors in a new and exciting way.
3. You avoid overeating
Over eating is one of societies biggest problems, it’s very easy to over eat, I do it all the time. Overeating symptoms come in many forms, they can be emotional symptoms or physical symptoms. I personally struggle with both types of symptom when I over eat. The food hangover is my nemesis and when I have one of these “hangovers” my day is slow and unproductive. I don’t get as much done as I would have and that leaves me feeling like crap.
When we eat mindfully however we eat slowly and when we eat slowly we give ourselves time to listen to our body. Our stomachs take about 15-20 minutes to signal to our brain that we are full. When we eat very fast with distraction the “Stop I’m full” signal takes too long to let us know we are full and before you know it you’ve eaten too much. You see, it’s easy.
When we have overeaten our body needs to use a huge amount of energy to digest the food. This is when you might experience a “food hangover” because your body is using all it’s got to digest your meal and this will leave you feeling sluggish. Now, I think twice before I grab another plate because I don’t want to deal with the hangover the next day.
4. Stop food cravings
When was the last time you ate something out of boredom or stress? Perhaps you saw something delicious on T.V and then found yourself staring into your fridge for the third time in the last hour. Cravings can really sneak up on you and turn a good eating day into a nightmare.
By eating mindfully you will start tuning into your internal hunger awareness and this will help you to stop cravings on the spot. You will know when you are experiencing real hunger or just another craving. Being aware will also help to identify the reasons behind our food cravings and this can be very powerful in transforming the way we eat.
5. Become your own weight-loss coach
Out of all these benefits weight loss is the most attractive. This is the big one. Eating mindfully forces you to become your own weight-loss coach because you will start experiencing food differently.
You will be more conscious of what foods you eat, you might start questioning the food. Is this right for me today, should I have seconds or is that cake really worth my time? By tuning into your body and understanding the difference between craving and hunger you will start eating only when you need to. This leads to weight loss because you will be eating less and nourishing your body with good food.
6. Maintains weight
When you practice mindful eating you change your relationship with food. This is one of my favorite mindful eating benefits. There is a shift from emphasizing what you eat to how you eat. This type of thinking puts an end to emotional and stress eating, and you naturally improve your eating habits. As a result your weight is positively impacted and you can keep those extra pounds off for good.
7. Food doesn’t control you anymore
I love eating and I enjoy the taste and feeling food gives me. I often want a second helping after my meal, for no other reason than it tastes good. Mindful eating teaches us to take a moment, a pause. You start to think about food with more clarity, before you know it you wont be getting seconds as often as you’re used to.
8. Makes mealtimes fun
Mindful eating turns your mealtime into an experience. Who doesn’t like a good experience, put some music on, have a glass of wine and enjoy the cooking process. Better yet, get your whole family involved. Mealtimes are a great way to spend quality time with your loved ones while practicing mindfulness. It’s a win win situation.
Being mindful while you prepare, cook and eat your food can really set the tone for a delightful meal.
Change Your Perspective
Mealtimes are a perfect opportunity to practice gratitude and when you eat mindfully it becomes second nature. Mindfulness encourages us to acknowledge the hard work and time that goes into making food. It allows us to appreciate where our food has come from, the time it took to prepare it and the experiences we have when we taste, smell and engage with our meal.
Eat mindfully With these Techniques
- Sit down when you eat
- Turn off the t.v/computer screen and don’t look at your phone while you eat
- Chew your food slowly
- Try use a smaller plate, this will help you with portion control
- Between bites, put down your utensils
- During your meal take a moment to breathe
Below is a video that sums up the benefits of mindful eating nicely.
Here are some books that have helped me to re-evaluate my relationship with food and gave me some great ideas on how to eat more mindfully
If you would like to learn how to eat more mindfully have a look at the 12 mindful eating exercises article on this blog. Mindful eating is process just like anything in life and when you start practicing it you will experience the benefits for yourself.