Mindful eating begins with an awareness of the physical, emotional and mental cues that tell us it’s time to eat. It can help us to differentiate between inner cues such as physical hunger and outer cues like tempting aromas, or the set hour for a particular meal or snack. It can help us to acknowledge if we are eating to avoid uncomfortable feelings or challenging tasks, or out of boredom.
Mindful eating reminds us to pause, take the time to acknowledge our feelings and allow them to pass. Acknowledging and experiencing our feelings, without judgement, is often enough, however sometimes our feelings highlight a need to address the cause of our upset. If we can do so in the present moment we do, if not we can commit to follow through at the appropriate time and return our attention to the present moment.
Eating mindfully is a simple practice to help strengthen the mind body connection. Instead of indulging in comfort food when we feel anxious or uneasy with our self, we listen to what our body is telling us, and we are less likely to robotically finish the whole packet of whatever is at hand.
When we eat mindfully with the intention to nourish ourselves, it brings our attention to our choice of food selection, preparation and presentation. We become more aware of what satisfies us visually, textures we enjoy, the temperature of food as well as smell, touch and taste. It is paying attention to the amount of food we are eating and its effect on our body. It allows us time to enjoy our food, note our likes and dislikes, and experience satisfaction and satiety.
Mindful eating encourages healthy eating habits by bringing our attention to our posture while we eat. For example if I eat hunched over the plate I am more likely to experience cramping and other digestive upsets. If I am continuously re-loading my spoon or fork while my mouth is full I am more likely to overeat.
If we eat so fast we barely taste our food before swallowing, we are unlikely to fully digest and assimilate its nourishment. We are also more likely to overeat as it can take up to 20 minutes for the stomach to signal fullness to the brain.
Similarly, mindless eating while working, reading, watching TV, or while stressed, worried or daydreaming, absents us from the experience of eating. By engaging our senses in our choice of food and our enjoyment of tasting each mouthful we are more likely to obtain both satisfaction and nourishment from the food we eat.
When we pay attention to our internal and external cues to eat, and the moment by moment process of eating, we can let go of familiar food habits that no longer serve us, and instead make choices that support our health and well being.