Healthy eating is about more than just the kinds of foods we eat. Healthy eating is also a factor of the way you eat: the time you take to eat, where you eat, and how you respond to your hunger and fullness cues.
Becoming more aware of the when, where, why and how of what you eat can help you become more mindful in your eating patterns.
Mindful eating is a strategy that is based on mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ancient zen practice of bringing your attention and focus exclusively to the present moment in order to experience the world, thoughts and feelings without judgment. When we are mindful, we are fully present and this allows us to pay full attention to the experience of eating.
Why should I be mindful of my eating habits?
Developing good nutritional habits is an important foundation for your health. A great first step is to learn to become mindful of your eating habits. Being mindful of your eating habits is now a principle adopted in the new Canada’s Food Guide. Mindful eating can allow us to make healthier choices more often by making us more aware of what we are eating and why so that we can make positive changes to our eating behaviour.
Here are a few simple ways you can become more mindful of your eating habits:
Create a healthy eating environment.
Where you eat your meal matters. It may be easier to make the healthy choice depending on where you are for a meal: at work, home or at a restaurant. Create a healthy eating environment by minimizing distractions while you eat, finding a dedicated area to eat, and dining in the company of others whenever possible.
While you are eating, just eat.
The reality is that we live in a fast-paced world and sometimes multitasking and eating go hand in hand. When we don’t pay 100 per cent attention to the activity of eating it becomes very hard to listen to our body’s need for food. Have you ever eaten lunch at your desk and wondered where the food went? Or sat down in front of the television with a bag of snacks that suddenly disappears? Try to eat away from your desk or work station or invite a colleague to join you at work and turn the television off and sit at a table to focus on your food and increase your enjoyment of eating.
Use your senses.
Being mindful of the foods you eat encourages you to pay attention to the aromas, textures, flavours and taste of food. Pay attention to your likes and dislikes using your senses of touch, smell, taste and sight. This may help connect you to your eating experience and to be more conscious of the food you are eating.
The brain needs time to get feedback that enough food has been consumed. To help you eat slower set a timer for 20 minutes; place utensils down between bites; and chew thoroughly. Being mindful of your eating speed may help you to consume the amount of food your body needs.
Listen to your hunger and fullness cues.
Through the practice of mindful eating one can learn to listen to their own internal fullness and hunger cues. Pay attention to the physical signals that your body is giving you that it is needs food. For example, ask yourself if your stomach is growling, if your energy is low, or if you are feeling lightheaded. When your body tells you it is feeling full, respect those signals and stop eating.
Practice mindful eating.
Practice mindful eating by doing the Raisin Meditation found here. This can help you gain insight into how to be present during your eating experience. Pick one meal a day to be fully mindful for and once you have mastered that meal move on to another. Be patient. Change takes time. With practice you will see the rewards of mindful eating.