I love observing, whether it be out in nature or people watching.
Whilst thinking I needed a page on mindful eating I took more time and
conscious awareness to observe people as they ate – whether they were on a
bus, walking in the street, in a café, even in their home.
What I observed was how mindlessly we eat — it’s as if “hand-to-mouth” is
an instant automatic, robotic action given little thought whilst we carry on
with other activities – talking at friends (NB the “at”) being in a rush,
engrossed in mind-numbing TV, constant texting or finishing the last crisp in
the bag, or clearing all the food on our plate just because it’s there.
We pour over sachets of ketchup mindlessly then literally stuff our hands
with piles of burger and fries. We eat mindlessly when stressed, our mood
dictating what we eat, how much, how fast and so on. I doubt if consciousness
comes into it – being aware of, “Are we really liking this? Can we taste it?
Are we aware of how hungry, or not, we actually feel, when we are moving to
Mindful eating is a beneficial way to bring balance into every aspect of how we eat.
Rather than stuffing our faces from without, we cultivate an inner awareness - of how our body and mind are reacting—and then a different outer wisdom—making wiser use of nutritional information to satisfy our needs and preferences.
So how do you become more mindful in your eating, particularly in your snacking?
Develop awareness of THE MOMENT when you are about to reach for food.
In that moment, STOP and become aware of your breathing. Yes, your thinking will be on food, like, “I need food now!” but by consciously STOPPING you are now engaging in distracting from the food thinking by shifting your attention to breathing.
Close your eyes if you are able.
Have a conversation in your mind. What is leading you to want to eat? Are you actually, physically hungry? How hungry? How do you know?
Where in your body do you feel this urge to eat / snack? Is it in your head, your gut, or where?
Instead of hunger, are you just stressed—or perhaps just bored?
Or perhaps have you seen something that triggers your urge – eg a TV advert or some left-over food in the fridge which is triggering you to eat?
Are your blood glucose counts low and triggering a need for a sugar fix?
Simply notice what is going on.
Only if you are physically hungry, give yourself full permission to eat (a meal or snack.) And do so, now without guilt. Give yourself some appreciation that you have moved from robotic eating to mindful eating. (That does not mean an extra cookie!)
For all other issues - stress, boredom, noticing other non-hunger triggers – take different action to satisfy those needs. Meditate, find something active to do, listen to music, go for a walk, phone a friend.
Choose your snack mindfully.
Consider what is calling you. Sometimes I am aware I want something
sweet, other times savoury, sometimes something substantial, sometimes
something curt and clean.
So what would be satisfying to you? What would you enjoy—bearing in
mind a full meal may be just around the corner?
Remind yourself that mindfulness is not about resisting or rejecting foods
– it is about choosing food mindfully, with awareness. Give thought to
how and what you choose, because you will be more satisfied and less likely
to eat more than if you’d just grabbed the first thing in front of you then later
be filled with remorse and regret and perhaps a bloated stomach!
Use knowledge to consider how much to eat and what to eat.
Restrict sugary foods, and starches like pasta or bread. Instead include protein, natural fats and vegetables.
Bless your food.
Give gratitude for it. Pray if that is your way. Give thanks in your mind to all involved in the chain of growing the food and the process of making it ready to eat.
Now eat mindfully.
Savour your food, eat it slowly and without doing anything else. No reading, TV, or trying to juggle umpteen tasks. Just eat. Notice the pleasurable signals your mouth and taste buds are sending you.
Find your own ways of eating mindfully. It may be by moving mindfulness into how you prepare your meals and snacks. Be open and curious. Be aware of how eating mindfully shift the quality of your eating and self-nourishing experience.
When we eat mindlessly – we often do so in haste. You’ll note the above has you slow down so that you really think about why you want to eat and what need you are trying to satisfy. You can apply mindfulness to any area of life.