Mealtimes are typically hurried occurrences for many people due to their hectic lifestyles. That’s where mindful eating comes into play. It is a method for gaining control over eating habits and can aid in weight loss, discourage binge eating, and general well-being. We have derived the idea of mindful eating from the Buddhist notion of mindfulness, a type of meditation that teaches people to detect and manage their emotions and bodily sensations.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food you eat is mindful eating. It entails paying attention to how food makes a person feel and their body’s signals regarding flavour, enjoyment, and fullness. Instead of judging their feelings, thoughts, or body sensations, mindful eating urges one to recognise and accept them.
Mindful eating isn’t about being flawless, always eating the proper foods, or never eating on the run again. It’s also not about establishing strict guidelines for how many calories one can consume or which items they must include or exclude from their diet.
Mindful eating is about focusing all of their senses and being present in the process of purchasing, preparing, serving, and consuming the food.
How Can Mindful Eating Improve Our Lifestyle?
Mindful eating improves lifestyle in the following ways:
- Reduces stress and anxiety by allowing one to calm down and take a break from a busy day.
- As mindful eaters learn to slow down and appreciate meals and snacks more than before, they look for pleasure from the food they eat, which helps in following a balanced diet in the long run.
- Watching how each kind of food makes them feel after eating it may choose a better food item to relish. For example, fried foods or processed foods can bloat people faster, leading to nausea and sluggishness. But a plate of fruits or veggies or grilled fish can fill the stomach without any bloating. Besides, they will provide the people with the required proteins and vitamins.
- Slowing down food intake helps digestion and reduces various digestive disorders like IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, reported by Cherpak in 2019.
- Learning about where food comes from and how it’s cooked helps build a relationship with food.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
There are lots of benefits of mindful eating.
- It can reduce both external and emotional eating.
- Both frequency and severity of binge eating, a type of eating disorder leading to obesity, can be reduced with mindful eating. Many obese women participated in a study that practised mindful eating for six weeks. During that time, the frequency of binge eating reduced to 1-1.5 times every week from 4 times.
- Cortisol is a stress hormone responsible for increased stress in the body. The cortisol level and HDL ratio to triglycerides reduce due to mindful eating, reported Jennifer Daubenmier, a renowned psychologist working in the San Francisco State University. Thus, mindful eating can help in controlling stress and anxiety.
- Mindful eating can be helpful for cancer patients, suggests a renowned dietician Stephanie Meyers, associated with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Cancer patients enjoy the texture and flavour of foods much better, which might aid the healing process.
Practising Mindful Eating
The human gut is home to billions of microorganisms. These bacteria make the ‘microbiome’. According to a new study, there is an inextricably link between microbiota and mental health. A skewed connection with food might result from a microbiome imbalance. When one adds in societal prejudices about body size and form, it’s easy to see why so many people have resorted to self-blame and self-shame when it comes to eating. What if the situation reverses? These are situations where mindful eating can help a person improve their lifestyle.
Participating in an activity with complete awareness can develop mindful eating. Eating with entire focus is vital instead of eating when busy or doing an activity diverting attention. To begin with, one should start practising mindful eating for five minutes at a time and build up from there.
Tips for Practicing Mindful Eating
Although the ideal mindful-eating meal options are comparable to the Mediterranean diet, which emphasises fruits, whole grains, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils, one can use the approach to enjoy a cheeseburger and fries. But for that, following the tips for practising mindful eating is necessary:
- Begin with the shopping list: Consider the health benefits of each item one can add to their shopping list and stick to it to avoid impulsive purchases. Avoid the middle aisles laden with processed goods and the chips and sweets at the check-out desk. Ensure the majority of the cart is from the vegetable section.
- Come to the table with an appetite: This must be done, but not to the point that one is ravenous. If a person skips meals, they might be so eager to get something into their stomach that filling it takes precedence over enjoying the meal.
- Start with a small portion: Limiting the size of the plate to nine inches or less may be beneficial.
- Appreciate food: Before eating, take a moment to think about all that went into bringing the dinner to the table. Express gratitude for the chance to eat a wonderful meal and the company they are sharing it quietly.
- Bring all the senses to the meal: Whether cooking, serving, or eating, pay attention to colour, texture, scent, and even the sounds that different meals make. One must try to identify all of the elements in the feed as they chew it, especially the spices.
- Take small bites: It’s simpler to taste everything when the mouth isn’t complete. Between bites, put the utensil down.
- Chew thoroughly: Chew thoroughly until the meal’s flavour is detected. One needs to chew the food 20-40 times before swallowing it down. Also, one can experience the flavours of the food better, which makes you content.
- Eat slowly: One does not have to gulp down their meal if they follow the tips above. Before chatting with tablemates, try to devote five minutes to mindful eating.
The benefits of mindful eating are immeasurable. Although mindful eating appears to be simple, it requires practice. One can begin by implementing the method at their next meal or once a week, such as having a “mindful Monday.” They can also seek instruction from a dietician, therapist, or psychologist on United We Care. It is mental health wellness and therapy platform where people can obtain expert advice on dealing with their mental and emotional issues.