Mindful Eating – Cultivating Awareness and Joy in Every Bite

Mindful eating asks that we take in the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of each mouthful as we savour it. By fostering greater appreciation for the foods that nourish us, as well as the people who plant and grow, prepare, cook and serve them, mindfulness eating leads to richer food experiences – with an enhanced appreciation of every mouthful – and greater connection with food culture.

Mindfulness can be hard to attain yet it is available to everyone. Try out these few pointers to help you get into mindfulness practice:

Choose Wisely

Slowing down and paying attention to all five senses are key components to mindful eating, as is experiencing colours, textures and aromas of food in your mouth with each bite, while you chew slowly and taste each mouthful.

‘Let go of the idea that cabbage is virtuous or ice-cream vicious. Your body needs fuel; it will find something to power itself.’

Naturally, with a new habit, you’ll want to start slow and build up your skills step by step. Being mindfully hungry can be daunting if you try to do too much and fail. Pick just one meal a day to incorporate mindful eating – and one way to get little nudges in that direction is to use an app such as Calm, which has a well tried-and-tested meditation style that is designed to fit effortlessly into your day.

Listen to Your Hunger Cues

Mindful eating helps you notice hunger and fullness cues, as well as the difference between the two, compounding the likelihood that you’ll eat to nourish your body – not to numb your emotions.

It might take some time to become mindful of hunger and satiety cues – and that’s assuming that the self-reporting studies used in each review are accurate – but if we take the time to pause before we eat, not let other activities such as TV viewing, working, reading and other activities intrude, and also consider when (or if) to snack or eat at all, it’s time well spent.

By savouring food – paying attention to its appearance, texture and smell – you can get more out of it. So, pausing for a moment, not rushing, to appreciate the flavour can be helpful, too.

Reina and Alex both expressed the view that mindful eating can be good for almost all persons, ­with the caveat that those who suffer from eating disorders or serious underlying issues should first seek nutritional rehabilitation and counselling before attempting to practise it on their own.

Slow Down

It is easier to eat mindlessly when we are distracted. Think about TV watching, scrolling social media, or sitting at a desk while you eat: we often eat food without fully appreciating its taste, end up eating too much, and spend less time engaging in healthful weight-management behaviours.

Eating mindfully also entails slowing down so you can listen for your appetite. Perhaps you can mentally direct yourself to choose quality over quantity? Savour your food one bite at a time, absorbing its texture, taste, smell and temperature – you’ll appreciate it more if you do.

This means pausing between bites, taking a breath, checking in on your hunger and fullness signals, and then either continuing to eat if you are still hungry, or stopping if you are satisfied. Second, change up your utensils or style, focusing more attention and paying close attention.

Take a Break

The best way to stop eating compulsively is to take regular mini-breaks. Use the time that you set aside for this mini-break to be present physically, mentally and emotionally in your body. For example, if you are experiencing anxiety or overstimulation while on your mini-break, identify where this anxiety may be coming from; a brief period of meditation or a scroll through family photos may help to alleviate such symptoms.

Mindful eating means adopting an accepting attitude towards your body and eating choices, and how it affects your mood and broader health status. Being nonjudgmental about these decisions will enhance your learning of how diet and lifestyle choices affect both of these components of wellness.

Mindful eating is a long-term process, so try gradually incorporating some of these techniques into your repertoire and working your way through them a little at a time. For example, if you typically eat without being fully aware of your food and experience, and eat more quickly than you should, your habits might not change right away. Try adding one or two tips each week until your habits change. For example, they might take weeks or months before you find yourself shutting down your computer at dinner, only eating when you feel hungry, preparing food mindfully and giving your plate your undivided attention. You might even find that mindful eating enhances the satisfaction of every bite you take.

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