Multitasking is the norm – let’s face it, it’s not unusual to be eating at the same time as watching TV, doing chores, or even while travelling (hands up if you’re guilty)? But this can lead to overeating, low feelings of satisfaction from our food. This is where mindful eating comes into play. Mindful eating is a practice that can bring more joy into your life (as well as many other benefits!).
What is the principle behind mindful eating? Eating without judgement, with purpose and noticing the moment. When you eat mindfully you use all of your senses to experience the food. It encourages you to sit, slow down and savour your food and the experience of eating, allowing you to be present and get more pleasure from your food.
Mindful eating benefits
There are many benefits to mindful eating, not just getting more enjoyment and pleasure from food (although this is definitely a big part of it). Other benefits include:
- A sense of empowerment over your food choices
- Reduction in overeating
- Get greater satisfaction from food
- Helps you to recognise feelings of hunger and feeling full
- Can contribute to better psychological wellbeing
- Allows you to make more conscious food choices.
- Mindfulness can help reduce stress
- Eating slower and chewing more enables better digestion
Mindful eating for weight loss
Can you lose weight by mindful eating? Weight loss is not the goal of mindful eating. However, it can be used as a tool to support a healthy relationship with food. As mentioned, the goal of mindful eating is not to lose weight. However, a systematic review of research into mindfulness and weight loss revealed that around two thirds of people practising mindful eating lost weight. This being said, it’s not clear the degree to which mindfulness is responsible for weight loss.
7 ways to practise mindful eating
Eat slowly: Chewing thoroughly (some suggest 30-50 times) allows you to recognise when you are full so that you can avoid overeating. It also exposes the food in your mouth to saliva for longer which makes it easier for it to break down and pass through the gut.
Savour: Cut your food into small bites so you can savour it for longer.
Consider your senses: Use as many of your senses as possible with each bite. How does the food smell? What do the textures feel like in your mouth as you chew? How does it make you feel when eating?
Listen to your body: Do you feel yourself filling up? How do you feel after eating?
Consider the ingredients: Where were they grown? How was the food prepared? Who prepared it?
Use smaller plates: The less you see, the less you eat.
Remove distractions: Where possible, avoid distractions like eating in front of the TV, and place your full focus on the experience of your food.
Mindful eating exercise
Think you’re hungry? Take a moment to recognise the feelings in your body that are telling you this. Notice the sensations and sit with them for a few moments.
Choose a piece of food to eat and notice what it is made of, how it looks, how it smells, where it came from. What is the packaging like? Is it light? Heavy? What does the wrapper sound like as you open it? If the food needs to be prepared, focus on the task at hand. How does it feel when you touch it? Does it smell? Does your mouth water?
Once the food is prepared, before you put the food into your mouth, notice all that you can about the food. Does it have a sound? What is the texture like? Is the colour(s) of it pleasing? Is it hot? As you take a bite, hold the food in your mouth and notice how it feels in your mouth – is it hard or soft? What is the temperature? The texture? The flavours? What is your mouth doing? Start to chew slowly and focus on the sensations. When you are ready, swallow the bite and pay attention to any lingering flavours or sensations.
Incorporate mindful eating into your life
In our fast-paced modern lives, there is a great emphasis on fast and convenient food, and it’s not always convenient to eat mindfully all the time. But by incorporating this practice into your life at least a few times a week, you can still benefit from it hugely.
We would like to take this opportunity to mention that mindful eating is likely not suitable for those with an eating disorder. If this is the case, we suggest speaking to a GP or dietician.