Our fast-paced society has changed our attitudes towards food and the way we consume it. Eating has become an activity that is pushed down the hierarchy of importance, to the extent that we often engage in it as an afterthought.
Most of us are all-too-familiar with having to gobble up weekday lunches in minutes while being stuck at the desk. We’ve forgotten the art eating. It’s become little more than a means of fueling our bodies with energy, rather than being a sensory pleasure.
The disconnect between our mind and body has led to a rise in food-related issues such as obesity and eating disorders. People are always in search of answers on how to maintain a healthy weight — and the answers are plentiful. From high-fat to low-fat to low-carb to no protein diets, it seems that there’s a diet for every body type.
But perhaps the solution is not as difficult as we make it out to be. Proponents of mindful eating suggest that it isn’t what we eat that’s the problem, but rather, the way we eat.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is based on the practice of mindfulness, which is about bringing your awareness to the present moment.
In the context of eating, this involves becoming more conscious of the act of consuming food (the sight, smell, taste and texture of your food) and how it’s making your body feel (whether you’re full, still hungry or simply enjoying the food). Instead of mindlessly chomping down your food, mindful eating encourages slow, purposeful consumption.
But what’s the point? How can this practice actually help us?
Supporters of the practice state that one of the immediate benefits of mindful eating is the increased enjoyment of meals. Eating becomes a multi-sensory experience instead of a mundane task, as you slowly savour each bite of food instead of thoughtlessly engorging it.
You’ll also become more aware of the sensations of hunger and fullness, leading you to make better choices on when to stop or continue eating — one of the biggest problems people have with food. Studies have shown that this alone may be enough to help people to maintain a healthier weight.
This increased awareness not only translates into benefits during mealtimes but inadvertently affects your general attitude towards food as well as the choices you make about the types of food you eat. You stand better equipped to make conscious decisions about whether that bag of chips is really good for you or not.
How Can We Practice Mindful Eating?
Getting started with mindful eating doesn’t require seismic changes to your routines. You can begin by following these three simple steps during your next meal:
- Put your phone away and dedicate 20 minutes of your time to the meal. Take your time to finish your food and bring your awareness to the action of eating.
- Bring out the inner food critic in you and start to observe the sight, taste, smell and texture of your food. Savour each sensation and bring to awareness the things you might not have noticed before.
- Tune into your hunger cues. Pause throughout the meal to ask yourself how full you are and if it’s time to stop. You might be surprised to find that you’re usually eating past your state of fullness or not eating enough.
The principles of mindful eating may sound simplistic, but in practice, it can be quite a challenge for our easily-distracted minds.
So start taking small, incremental steps towards becoming more present when eating. You may find that you start enjoying your food even more than you did before.
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