Biting into an apple and savouring the intense crunch and a burst of tart-sweet juice
Deciding to not have another cookie because you found that you didn’t feel too good after eating the one before.
Savouring the slice of artisan cheese.
Checking in with your hunger every few minutes a day.
Have you ever tried doing these before? Or, do you know someone who does it?If yes, you are already practicing mindful eating in some form!
Sometimes, we have an appetite that’s as huge as our culture. To enjoy all these foods without guilt, we have to practice healthy eating habits.
And, this is where mindful eating comes to our aid.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is all about making the best food choices, staying in the present moment, and making space for your feelings at that moment. It helps you to take a step back from all the distractions and listen to the sensations in your body. It can also be thought of as a kind of meditation that helps you recognize and cope with your physical sensations and emotions.
Simply put, mindful eating habits involves the following.
Eating slowly in an environment devoid of distractions
Appreciating what’s on your plate
Engaging all your senses in noticing, smelling, and recognizing the colours, textures, and flavours
Listening to your physical hunger cues and eating only until you are full
Recognizing the effects food has on your feelings
Distinguishing between true hunger and non-hunger triggers like emotional/stress eating
Eating to stay healthy and for the well-being
Mindful eating encourages you to gain control over your eating habits.
Does mindful eating really work?
Mindful eating is a way to put your body’s in-built regulatory system to work by deciding what, when, and how much to eat rather than following a drab diet plan. Thus, mindful eating happens to be a practical way of cutting through the nutrition noise.
Nevertheless, hundreds of years’ worth of research have already helped us with a list of healthy food items — should we really ditch science and eat what our body tells us it needs? And, what if it turns out our body tells us it needs Pizza or french fries for breakfast?
Let’s put an end to your concerns!
Studies suggest that mindful eating will never lead to overeating or poor dietary choices, thanks to the process called habituation. Habituation simply means that the more you are exposed to a specific food, the less tempting they become. Furthermore, with the ability to distinguish between genuine hunger and emotional hunger, you will be forced to find non-food-related coping mechanisms which happen to be highly effective in the long run.
Let’s take a look at the stats now.
In 1990, Jean Kristeller, a psychologist found that a six-week long mindful eating program was efficient in reducing the tendency to binge-eat in overweight women.
Later, various other studies have also confirmed that mindful eating practices can regulate portion size in adults as well as reduce emotional eating habits. People who participated in mindful eating programs showcased less emotional eating, and improved self-esteem and body appreciation.
Now, we come back to the main question. Does mindful eating work?
It does in case of improving good eating habits, stopping you from overeating.
Ever noticed how eat.fit includes a macro break-up and calorie count for every meal you eat?
It is not so that you start worrying and counting every calorie you consume but so that you grow more aware of what you are eating and the impact it has on your body. That’s eat.fit’s way of helping you out with mindful eating.
Does mindful eating work even when you eat junk food?
Let’s be honest, all of us must be at that best friend’s birthday party or lavish wedding dinners or even frequent work outings. And, it can be difficult in such cases to eat a balanced diet, let alone practising mindful eating.
It’s preferable to mindfully eat real healthy meals over junk food because real foods aren’t peppered with additives that can hijack your brain’s reward pathways. Additionally, real healthy food items are less likely to be loaded with high glycaemic carbohydrates and sugars that can send your blood sugar and hormonal levels on a roller coaster ride which in turn can trigger more cravings.
Nevertheless, thinking that ‘mindful eating doesn’t count if you eat junk food’ is like giving up on healthy eating habits for the entire day because you had a not so healthy lunch.
There isn’t a better time to apply mindful eating than when you’re eating junk food
It can even be thought of as the ultimate test of starting towards a healthier life!
Mindful eating is:
Noticing how sore your throat feels when drinking soda.
Recognizing how having a handful of potato chips can make you want to keep eating the whole bag.
Staying aware of the thick layer of trans fat on the roof of your mouth when you eat a doughnut.
Observing how you tend to overeat when you are hanging out with your friends and munching on a bowl of fried appetizers.
These scenarios happen to be wonderful opportunities to recognize how your body reacts to various foods and situations.
What do you do when life gets in the way?
Speaking of commitments, eating mindfully can sometimes become hard depending on your lifestyle. What you should realize is that mindful eating isn’t just about realizing you’re full before you have eaten the entire packet of cookies — Mindful eating happens before, during, and even after you eat!
It doesn’t have to fit into your life perfectly, and it’s absolutely fine if you don’t get to practice the awareness during a busy family dinner, or team lunch.
So, on days like these, where you are eating in a distracted setting, try your best to eat slowly. Remember to chew the food thoroughly and to constantly check in with your body.
Moreover, the main thing about mindful eating is to stay flexible. You don’t have to stick to mindful eating so much that it becomes another set of rules you have to live through every day. Also, deviating from rules can stress you out and make you feel bad about yourself which isn’t really good for your overall well-being.
Did you know that under stress, blood rushes away from your digestive system and towards your limbs are brain to help you react faster?
This simply means that when you are having food while stressed, digestion may not happen properly and can lead to digestive discomfort. Mindful eating helps you notice this emotional state of mind and make the choice of healthy eating only when your mind and body are calm.
To put it short, the rule of thumb when it comes to mindful eating is to eat in situations devoid of distractions. It is to do the best you can, when you can, and take it one meal at a time.
We understand! Mindful eating can be both terrifying and liberating at once. However, sticking to the journey is worth the while.
After all, we spend a lot of our hard-earned money on the food we eat. Thus, it is high time we paid more attention to it.
Before you go,
Here is a mini-challenge you could do
Always try to take the practice of mindful eating everywhere you go and with everything you eat. Regardless of whether you are at your grandma’s place for a family get together, having dinner at a friend’s house, having ice cream, having wine and pizza or having an organic salad with avocado dressing. Here’s how you can start practising the art of mindful eating.
- Eat one meal a day all by yourself so you can be completely tuned into it
- Eat slowly: It takes about 20 mins for your body to register that you’re full.
- Next time you get your favourite dessert, try to figure out at what point you actually get full/satiated.
- In a social setting, take breaks between eating so you can focus both on conversations and also keep checking in on how full/satiated you feel.
Remember, the outcomes are always positive. You get to realise how your body responds to food and decide whether you should be eating those brownies anymore.
However, mindful eating is not a skill you can master overnight. In fact, it takes months and years to hone it, develop it, and make it a habit. But once you finally make it your goal, you will feel pretty great about yourself for giving it a go.