Mindful eating is a fairly recent intervention strategy used to develop a healthier relationship with food and ultimately become more aware of what we are eating, why we choose the foods we do, our feelings after eating…etc. The great things about mindful eating is that anyone can do it! Mindful eating does not incorporate any strict diets, foods to eliminate, or the use of crazy ingredients I certainly don’t have on-hand.
Mindful eating is simply going back to how we were as children: we ate when we were hungry; we stopped when we were full. Such a simple concept has changed as we get older and it takes a little extra training to get back to that point.
Food is fuel. It is what our bodies need to function, to carry out daily activities, and to use as energy during times of exertion. However, eating is not that simple. We eat for a variety of reasons. You could struggle with emotional eating: stressed, upset, depressed, anxious; you name it, sometimes food is our comfort. You could struggle with binge eating: going for days or weeks on your strict diet but then giving in to all your cravings and stuffing yourself. You could struggle with a certain type of food: my weakness is sweets. I know when I eat sweets such as cookies, cakes, or donuts, I am not eating those to fuel my body, I am simply eating for enjoyment.
Below is a mindful eating wheel. This is great to have on hand and consult before we eat to make sure we are eating because we are hungry and to ensure that the foods we choose are foods that can be used to fuel us.
Your body is smart. It knows what it needs and sometimes that may mean a big cheeseburger and that’s OKAY! If we are really craving something and we continue to restrict ourselves, it will backfire when we overdo it on that food later on. Your body also knows when it’s hungry and full. Listen to your hunger cues and listen to your cues of satiety. It can take 20 minutes for the brain to signal to the body that it is full – which is why slowing down and enjoying our foods can lead to a reduction in overconsumption.
Here are a few mindful eating strategies to try at home!
- Eat with your non-dominant hand
- Set a timer for 20 minutes and take that full time to eat your meal
- Keep a food journal to track not only what you are eating but your hunger levels and how you feel after
- Let foods sit in your mouth for a few moments. Think about the texture and taste and focus on chewing foods thoroughly
- Take a sip of water or put your fork down in between bites
- Eliminate outside distractions. Turn off the TV or computer and eat your meals at the table