‘Mindfulness’ is a word that has become embedded in our everyday language.
A definition of mindfulness is ‘the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgement.’
The practice of mindfulness has helped innumerable people live with greater purpose and intention. This word and practice more recently found its way into the world of nutrition, and the benefits are shown to be astounding.
We live in a fast-paced world. There is a very high chance we were all told at least once in our lives “slow down, you’re eating too fast.” Often, we scoff down our food whilst our minds are elsewhere – full of thoughts such as what we’re doing after we eat or glued to a device such as our phone or the TV.
Growing up, I never had a positive relationship with food. The practice of mindful eating was absolutely without a doubt the main tool that helped to repair this relationship.
Below are some benefits of mindful eating, and below again are some tips on how you can develop in this practice.
BENEFITS OF MINDFUL EATING
- It helps you to learn your hunger cues so that you know when you’re hungry & when you’re full. Therefore, you will not over or under eat.
- Following the above, it helps you to not use food to manage emotions. Many people use food as a tool to distract from negative emotions such as sadness, anger or boredom. Or, they use it as a way to reward themselves for something good that they did. Mindful eating will ensure you eat only when & how much your body needs. Many studies have been done on the link between obesity & mental health. It is proven that most overweight people eat to mask negative emotions & have lost touch with their natural hunger cues.
- It helps you to not be an ‘external eater’. We all have those times when we’re out with friends at a cafe or restaurant & everyone orders something but you’re not hungry. Mindful eating will ensure we don’t order & eat simply because everyone else is.
- It helps you to not be a ‘response eater’. This occurs when we eat in response to environmental, food-related cues, such as the sight or smell of food.
- It helps you to eat food that is nutritious & beneficial to the body. Eating mindfully ensures you are connected with how foods make your body feel. So, you are less inclined to eat toxic, processed foods that your body was never designed to eat. Consider the way you feel after eating greasy takeaway compared to a fresh salad.
- It helps you to grow in gratitude! When you eat mindfully, you create space for awareness of the fact that food is a divine gift.
HOW TO EAT MINDFULLY
- Before automatically putting food in your mouth or beginning to prepare a meal, stop and consider the motivation behind your actions. Are you actually physically hungry? Is it actually mealtime? Or are you eating out of emotion – boredom, anger, sadness? If your desire to eat is not out of actual hunger, choose an activity of self-love and kindness to fill the desire in a way that will leave you feeling nourished in the long run.
- When you eat, only eat! Put away all distractions and focus completely on your food. The mind has a tendency of wanting to live in the future. So often, we eat breakfast whilst thinking about all the things we need to do that day. When breakfast is over, we start thinking about lunch! Be aware of this tendency and continually bring yourself back to the present moment of simply eating. As you are consistent in this practice, your mind will become renewed and this will soon become natural.
- Fully immerse yourself in the experience of eating.
- Examine the surface of the food – how does it look?
- How does the food smell, and what is your reaction to its smell?
- How does the food feel in your hands, and in your mouth?
- Chew your food slowly until it becomes completely liquified before swallowing.
- After swallowing, close your eyes for a moment and fully become aware of the experience. Ask yourself – how does this food feel inside your body?
Food has the ability to both harm and heal. Fresh, unprocessed foods bring life and vitality, whilst toxic, processed foods damage and destroy. When we eat mindfully, assessing how the food we are eating is making us feel on a physical, emotional, and mental level, we will be less likely to eat foods that are harmful as we will be present enough to recognise and experience their effects