How often do you shovel food into your mouth and before you have even begun to chew, your hands dive straight back down to your plate, to stuff your face with another mouthful?
Let me challenge you. With your next meal have a mouthful, it doesn’t matter what the food is, it will be more testing with something you enjoy, particularly if you are famished.
Here comes the tough part. After you have had the mouthful of food, put your utensils down, or if you’re using your hands like a caveman (or sandwich eater), put the food down. This may sound easy reading this now but in reality for most people because the first bite of food tends to be awesome and stimulates the desire for more it can be hard to stop. You’re hungry after all, or are you?
This simple challenge defies what you would normally do and will hopefully create awareness of the impulsive urge to devour your food like a wild ravenous starving dog. Don’t do it! Leave your cutlery on the table, desk or wherever it is you eat. Chew your food, slowly. Don’t talk to anyone, instead zone into what you are doing…eating! Take note of the smell of your food, look at your food in all its glory, and notice the colours. Feel the texture as it enters your mouth and savour the flavours of your food. Think about the nutrients nourishing your body and helping sustain your very existence.
Don’t stop at this mouthful but continuing eating this way through the entire course of your meal but ensure you are finishing each mouthful whilst taking note of each detail of the food before moving onto the next piece.
This is being mindful whilst eating. Mindfulness goes back to ancient Buddhist practices. By doing this, putting your attention and awareness to the present moment and meal you will in turn be more aware of what and why you are eating and thus will more than likely eat less. You will notice when you start to get full and I can guarantee it will be after consuming a lot less food than a normal meal.
More often than not we have lost our connection to eating food, we don’t take the time to chew and appreciate each mouthful but instead are frequently on a train of thought. It can range from; ‘How much time will it take to finish this meal?’, ‘What will I have for my next meal?’ Or it can be completely unrelated to food altogether, ‘ I have to get this report finished for work’, ‘Did I lock the front door this morning?’ Usually we have several thoughts racing through our minds at once.
There are implications to not being mindful whilst eating, as mentioned you will probably eat more, you may not be digesting your food properly. Remember the first step to digestion is chewing; another process that can be hindered is the release of necessary gastric juices that are not released optimally if we are not ready to eat or are stressing over other things and not relaxing before eating.
There are so many benefits from implementing mindful eating techniques including; increased enjoyment from food, reduced binge eating and improved nutrient uptake. Below I have listed 10 easy tips to mindful eating.
10 Tips to mindful eating
- Eat small regular meals throughout the day
- Before eating ask yourself;
- Am I hungry?
- Am I thirsty?
- What type of food/drink do I want?
- Set a nice clear place to eat with cutlery
- Sit down, no standing, walking, driving
- Being in the present, take 3 deep breaths before picking up your cutlery
- Eat slowly
- Pay attention to the smell, taste, sound, texture and look of the food
- Put utensils down between mouthfuls
- Every few minutes check in with your hunger signals
- Are you still hungry?
- Stop eating just before you feel full, it can take a while before you recognise that you are full
- Enjoy your meal. If you are not enjoying what you are eating or you are eating for the sake of it, you will never feel satisfied
Keeping a diet diary can also be a mindful practice. It makes you check in with yourself before or after eating. Studies have shown people that keep a diet journal are more inclined to eat less food and make better food choices.
So I put it to you to take on the challenge of trying to eat mindfully.