Well let’s start by talking about what mindful eating is NOT. Have you ever rushed out the door and eaten breakfast whilst driving to work with one thousand other things on your mind? Have you ever had a meal whilst mindlessly scrolling on your phone? Have you ever snacked whilst watching a movie and thought where did that packet go? Have you ever eaten for reasons other than being hungry? Does emotional eating come to mind? Have you ever followed a diet and over restricted your food even when you are feeling hungry? If you said yes to any of these, it’s okay! Eating this way is not surprising with the demands of everyday life and the diet culture that is driven into us. Recognising that you could add some more presence and mindfulness into your eating patterns is the first step.
Mindful or intuitive eating encompasses a few things. Let's explore this together below.
CONNECT WITH YOUR BODY'S NATURAL HUNGER AND FULLNESS CUES
What does this mean? Asking yourself 'am I hungry?' before you are about to eat food or a meal. It's taking the time to check in with yourself and be present BEFORE your eating experience. If you’re not hungry, asking yourself 'what are the reasons other than hunger, that is driving me to reach for this food?' It is a process of becoming aware of these things and recognising them. Once you have recognised whatever it is your body is feeling, the next step is responding.
If you are feeling hungry then respond by nourishing your body with a satisfying food that you enjoy. If you are not feeling hungry, but find yourself reaching for food for reasons other than hunger, it's really important to reflect on the reasons behind why you were reaching for this food - some people find writing it down or journaling is a good way to keep track. I also recommend spending some time addressing the reasons behind your non-hungry eating - because if we don't fix the core issues, then we will never be able to move forward.
After you recognise this non-hungry eating, it's time to respond by replacing the food with another activity that you enjoy eg. it might be walking the dog, reading a book, gardening, having a shower or bath, journaling, watching your favourite tv show etc - anything that is going to shift your focus and will still have the desired effect of being enjoyable.
It's so important to tune in, be present and engage all of your senses during your eating experience. Remove all distractions eg. turn off the tv or your work computer or put the phone down. Some things you can focus on: what does the food smell like, look like, taste like, feel like eg. texture and sound like when you eat it. Also tune into when you are beginning to feel full or satisfied. A lot of people that eat mindlessly, will finish off all of the food on their plate without tuning into how their body is feeling whilst eating. Also, IT IS OKAY to leave food on your plate if you are feeling full! A good tip to remember: it can take up to 20 minutes from the time that we start eating for our gut to send a signal to our brain to let us know that we are feeling full. So what does this mean? Practice EATING SLOWLY. Make sure to chew all of the food properly whilst focusing on our senses. This way, we are more likely to feel full closer to the end of our meal and it helps to prevent over eating.
Does this all sound like a lot for you to work through on your own? Send me a message for some guidance and support. Alternatively, get in touch with your Dietitian/Psychologist to work with you, through this process. If you’re really unsure and just want to read some more, check out the Headspace website for a whole section on mindful eating! You can find the link below.
Useful links: https://www.headspace.com/mindfulness/mindful-eating