There are so many diet crazes out there you probably have trouble telling them apart.
But a lot of these weight loss plans neglect fundamental principles that you can leverage to lose weight and live healthier. Mindful eating helps you grow skills and a mindset that will build your health.
What is MindLESS Eating?
Most people, it turns out, are inferior judges of calorie content. And the bigger the container, the worse we get at it.
All those times you munched through the popcorn bucket at the movies, all those times you woke up and went to the fridge just because you were awake, those were mindless eating. Mindless eating happens when we eat out of habit, not hunger.
Put otherwise; mindless eating is when you’re “just eating to eat.” It may be for comfort, distraction, or social situations. Or you plain might not realise you’re doing it until the bowl is empty.
Mindless eating often occurs when your focus is otherwise engaged. Consider the last time you watched your favourite TV show. Or how about the bread basket you unwittingly attacked while talking and waiting for your entree to arrive.
How about when you went through a bag of chips while stuck in computer work?
You were distracted, right? That’s what happens while our mind is otherwise occupied and only our mouth is focused on the food.
The big problems behind these habits are many. You can easily top up your daily calorie intake by thousands just eating idly. For some reason when we’re “just munching” it seems much more negligible, but it isn’t.
You’re training your mind into a habit of ignoring the food that sustains you. And when you’re eating mindlessly, chances are you hardly taste and enjoy your meal.
You certainly don’t take time to appreciate it.
What is MindFUL Eating?
Mindful eating brings back what is lost with mindless eating. But it’s so much more than mentally reciting “okay, I’m eating now. Alright, taking another bite…” You get the idea. It’s not just about chewing slowly — although yes, that’s a significant pillar of it.
It’s about your mentality when you take time to slow down. When it comes down to it, mindful eating is really about changing the way you see food and nourishment. There are a lot of different ways to practice mindful eating, but they all centre around the same principles.
Mindful eating means you turn your focus to your food. Let your meal be the centre of your attention. And the focus of all your senses. Think of it as a sort of meditation. You’re mentally rerouting habits most people have spent their lifetime developing.
It’s in the name.
Be mindful (mentally present, focused on your food, experiencing all the sensations of eating) when you eat and when you think you want to eat. This means no TV, no texting, no distractions.
When you entirely focus on eating, on how it affects your body, this is being mindful. Many mindful eaters find contemplating the nourishment and origins of their food deepen their awareness.
As an additional return, people often find their overall stress levels decrease, and they feel more mentally well.
The whole process is a series of mental layers meant to join our nourishment, body and self-awareness. The intended result is a more well, healthful life.
Why Do People Eat Mindlessly?
Our environment everyday surrounds us with triggers that have us unwittingly eating mindlessly. Some of these seem to be almost universal, while others are for personal comfort. Identifying the causes in your life is the first step to overcoming them.
Emotional Distress and Reward
Here’s the reason behind the term “comfort food.” Think of all the typical movie scenes wherein the heartbroken protagonist dives into a bucket of ice cream. Or maybe it’s that order of fries you felt you earned after a long day.
Stress and distress are common reasons to eat mindlessly, even if we don’t label them like that. Since childhood, many of us are taught that rewards come in the form of unhealthy food. As a result, our reactions to our perceived trials often involve rewards that damage our health.
Or maybe it’s better to call it social influence. Remember the last company meeting and the snack bar? It’s like a gravitational force for chatting and gathering. Even if you’ve already eaten, you eat because it’s there and everyone else is.
And science proves that when we’re in a situation where food is nearer, or our social group eats more, we eat more.
Distraction and Boredom
Another example of just eating to eat, because there’s nothing else to do. Eating out of boredom packs on calories quick. And it’s a double blow considering that open time for productivity is only used on producing excess weight gain.
Or people may even use snacking as a form of procrastination: you’ll do project XYZ, but you “need” to get a snack first.
Just as we unconsciously allow time to run so much of our lives, it often runs a mindless diet. People may eat when not hungry “because it’s that time.”
Conversely, people may also have trouble eating at regular times and wait until they’re past hungry.
In these cases, they turn to the nearest, most comfortable option. Unfortunately, that usually ends up being the bag of chips nearby, or whatever the vending machine has to offer.
What Can You Do To Triumph Over Those Triggers?
When you realise triggers surround you, you need a battle plan. The coping methods that are successful for you will bring you better health and peace of mind.
You can tweak any of these methods to fit you because the best way is the one that works for you:
Beat the Big Container Battle
Now we know large bags and boxes are a deceptive force in our diets. You need to think ahead and strike preemptively. Take some time at the beginning of the week and pre-proportion your snacks. You don’t have to prepare a week’s worth ahead of time.
Of course, you can, but enough to get you through some cravings will make a big difference.
Slow Your Roll
It’s so common to inhale a meal before you get a chance to realise what you’re doing. When you eat so quickly, you don’t even give your body a chance to react until the meal’s gone. The first problem with this is that your stomach can’t send “full” signals to your brain as fast as you eat.
By the time the “full” signals reach your brain, it’s already too late. When you eat slowly, you give your body a chance to prevent a binge. And chewing slowly offers you an opportunity to appreciate food and your body’s reactions to it. Plus, it improves digestion.
Rely on Your Body, Not Your Environment
Because your body takes most of its eating cues from your environment, it’s important to learn your internal hunger signals. It’s easy enough to feel hungry when the dessert cart rolls by. Even though you know, you felt full a mere 10 minutes ago.
When external cues trigger your “hunger” really, honestly analyse whether you’re hungry or just craving. The self-control this requires can be the hardest part for most people to master.
Keep Snacks Nearby
Yes, you read that right. Keep snacks nearby. But not a bag of chips and not a candy bar. Your body needs some amount of fuel every 3–4 hours. But empty calories do little to fuel you.
Grab some of those (healthy) snacks you portioned out and keep them nearby throughout the day. When a craving hits or the vending machine comes calling, break out the snacks. If you’re not hungry enough to eat healthy meals, you’re probably not hungry.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Keep junk food out of sight. Because your body often uses visual triggers for hunger cues, get ahead of them. Putting unhealthy snacks away makes it easier to overcome cravings through pure avoidance.
How Does Mindful Eating Benefit Your Health?
In a world obsessed with weight loss, it’s easy to forget about the other benefits that come with healthy eating. Mindful eating is different than diets and weight loss plans. It’s an all-around plan for health.
You Start to Optimize Your Awareness
Yes, it sounds strange. We’re all continually paying partial attention: traffic signs, office memos, weather reports. But your self-awareness is often left to neglect. With mindful eating, you become familiar with your body and its reaction to sustenance you provide it.
You’ll also become more emotionally aware. Mindful eating requires you to identify underlying triggers that you turn to food to satisfy.
You Get Rid of Bloat, Binges and Energy Crashes
When you practice mindful eating, you’re avoiding overeating. This, in turn, prevents you from the uncomfortable sluggish feeling afterwards. When you fill your body with junk, the energy quickly depletes. That gives you the post-snack energy crash.
When you eat mindfully with sustenance in mind, you give your long-lasting body fuel. And you’re not stocking yourself with salty, fatty snacks that lead to uncomfortable bloat and indigestion.
You Train Your Body to Send Accurate Signals
Likewise, you train your mind to interpret your body’s signals more accurately. When you snarf down junk food regularly, you teach your body that this is a regular and necessary act. Mentally, you realise junk food is terrible.
But your body doesn’t. When you practice mindful eating, you teach your body to crave only when it’s starving. And that makes your struggle with cravings easier.
It Can Help You Shed Some Extra Pounds
If you’re overweight, mindful eating is a good foundation for weight loss. So many people struggle with extreme and restrictive diets to try and lose weight. But that struggle is easily remedied when you change how you eat and how you view food.
We’ve all had it drilled into our minds: excess calories consumed and not used turn into fat. Instead of spending hours at the gym (which is good) to “buy” yourself calories to drink later, take the problem out at the root.
When you change how you eat, you’ll naturally begin to lose weight. And if you’re putting in gym time, your efforts are well rewarded.
How Can You Begin To Practice Mindful Eating?
If you want to begin to practice mindful eating, you can use this simple exercise to start. Find a comfortable spot where you can relax without interruption. Get a bowl of food you can quickly eat with your fingers. Pick something healthy! Think grapes, mixed nuts, etc.
Go to your peaceful, comfortable spot and recline while closing your eyes. Pick up a single piece of the food, using only your thumb and index finger. When you place the food in your mouth, slowly begin to eat it. Roll it around in your mouth, paying attention to texture.
Chew very slowly and focus on all the tastes and sensations you’re experiencing. Don’t rush through this exercise. You’ll know you’re going slow enough when it takes near 20 minutes to empty the bowl. This isn’t a public exercise, of course.
To indeed make full use of this method you’ll want to do it home, with no distractions present.
You can think of mindful eating as sustenance meditation if you like. Others like to view it as a new attitude towards health.
Whether you keep a food journal or schedule yourself several small meals, it’s about being mentally present and focused when eating.
Like with any regimen, you do have to commit yourself. That’s not to say you can’t start slow, but don’t just quit.
If you find yourself slipping, don’t throw away your progress. Being mindful also means realising one slip does not equate to a full out binge or cheat day.
Changing lifelong habits is an intensive process. The journey is worth it: you gain more general wellness that will give back for a lifetime.