Buddhist by its core and in its origin, mindfulness has become a buzzword in the Western civilization, and its popularity skyrocketed in recent years.
There is a good reason why you can read about mindfulness in popular magazines and hear about it on TV – it’s been researched extensively and has shown considerable physical and mental health-related benefits.
As mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and not-judgmentally,” we can apply it to any area in our lives that needs more thought and attention.
One such area that needs more of our attention is eating.
Even when we’re active, and doing our best to stay in shape, our habitual hurried or inattentive eating can annihilate or diminish all the great results we’ve been working so hard to achieve.
Read on to learn what great benefits mindful eating can bring to your body and how you can begin with this life-changing practice.
What Is Mindful Eating?
We’re leaving in a fast-paced world, and our schedules are often tight and overwhelming.
It’s not uncommon that we completely forget about our mealtimes, or just use the time when we’re behind the wheel, or in front of a computer screen to devour the food in front of us, without giving any thought about whether it’s feeding our body the nutrients it needs.
Mindful eating resets such practices. It brings our focus back to the physical cues of hunger and satiety, so we can undoubtedly determine when it is time to begin or to stop eating.
It helps us concentrate on the food we’re consuming, and the whole eating experience, with all our senses.
The goal is to give your mind, as well as your body, enough time to process why you’re eating, identify the food you’re eating, notice how your body responds to it, as well as to learn how to appreciate and enjoy it.
A Chocolate-Bite Experiment
To understand the concept of mindful eating better, have a bar of your favorite organic dark chocolate. Approach it as you’ve probably never done before – from seeing all the details on its wrapping and how it feels in your hands, to slowly unwrapping it and paying attention to how your body reacts while anticipating the indulgence.
If you notice that this food brings some emotional reactions, pay attention to them too.
Resist the urge to eat the bar, and see which reactions this resistance brings.
Then, start with a single bite, and let the piece of chocolate slowly melt in your mouth.
What sensations does it bring? What emotions? Then see how it feels when it moves down your throat and through your body.
This simple experiment will teach you a lot about eating mindfully, but probably even more about yourself.
At least, you may find out that a single bite can sometimes be more indulgent and satisfying than eating a whole chocolate bar.
The Benefits of Mindful Eating
The practice of mindful eating can make you more aware of your eating habits, both the good and the bad ones.
It can help you identify what habits you need to change or improve so that you can positively influence the sense of wellbeing that you can achieve through eating.
According to Mayo Clinic, mindful eating can help you with weight loss as it encourages you to slow down and pay attention to what you’re eating. It can help you gain control over your food intake by learning how to differentiate whether you’re eating out of boredom, habit, or actual hunger.
The Center for Mindful Eating enlists further benefits of mindful eating, such as:
- Encouraging you to make healthier food choices,
- Freeing yourself from reactive patterns around food and eating,
- Nourishing not only your body but your heart too,
- Shifting the focus of control from external authorities to your internal wisdom,
How Can You Start Eating Mindfully?
To begin eating mindfully, start by introducing smaller changes that will cumulatively make a great impact. Try eating only when you’re hungry and not simply because there is food around and you’re bored or nervous.
For starters, don’t multitask during your meals, and try to devote all your time to the food you’re consuming. Just sit down, and focus on your meal – the taste of your food, and the way you’re eating.
Eat slowly, and before you take another bite, make sure you’ve finished the one that’s already in your mouth. Also, chew your bites well to kickstart the digestion process and allow better absorption of nutrients.
Besides paying attention to the taste of the food you’re consuming, activate your other senses as well. Notice the shapes, colors, texture, aroma, sounds. This will completely change your eating experience, for the better.
Mindful eating is a way of listening to your body’s signals to understand its cravings better and learn to differentiate hunger from thirst or emotional emptiness. As such, it can put an end to overindulging or mindless eating, which often results in obesity or eating disorders. Furthermore, it helps you develop a healthy relationship with food, promotes ideal body weight, and encourages proper digestion.