A Guide to Mindful Eating

If you feel as though you are a victim of mindless eating or you feel like you overeat more times than not, mindful eating is something you should explore. It’s not a fad diet, but a lifestyle that creates a healthy relationship with food, and all of the wonderful sensations that come with it.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “mindful” is defined as “inclined to be aware” or “bearing in mind”. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that creates awareness of all of your emotions and physical sensations you feel throughout your day. Hence, mindful eating is the idea of eating with awareness. Mindful eating creates a healthy relationship with food and tunes you into your cravings and body’s physical cues in relation to eating.

I became interested in the idea of mindful eating when I realized how often I eat when I’m bored, when I’m studying, when my friends are eating, etc. I realized that my eating schedule was not in tune with my body’s need for food. Living in a college dorm has also had a major impact on me because I tend to eat for the social aspect of it, not because I am truly hungry in that moment. I’d rather eat and spend time with friends when I’m not that hungry, than get hungry later and have no one to eat with.

Much of the knowledge I have on mindful eating came from the book “Mindful Eating” by Jan Chozen Bays. I definitely recommend reading this book, because it goes into much more depth about many topics I touch upon in my article, and has completely changed my relationship with food for the better.

 

Guide for Mindful Eating

1. Understand your body’s nine types of hunger

In Chozen’s book, she writes how our body gets hungry in different ways. Hearing the crunch of a potato chip, the smell of popcorn at the movies, the sight of a delicious ice cream sundae; Each of these “hungers” stem from different places. Understanding where your feeling of hunger is coming from can help you to stop mindlessly eating, that is, eating when you’re bored and not actually in need of food. The nine types of hunger are eye, touch, ear, nose, mouth, stomach, cellular, mind, and heart hunger. Each resonate with different parts of the eating process. Imagining a certain type of food is mind hunger, hearing a crunch of a chip is ear hunger, nose hunger is smelling a delicious piece of fried dough at a carnival, etc. Before eating, think about which part of “you” is actually hungry, and adjust to what your body needs from there.

 

2. Slow down!!

Slowing down your eating helps you to use ALL of your senses during the process, and to enjoy the tastes, smell, and experience of eating. Eating slower also helps to avoid overeating because it gives your stomach time to tell your brain it’s had enough! Slower eating improves digestion, can reduce bloating after meals, and can be used as a nice break during a stressful day. Try putting your fork down between each bite and do your best to take 30 chews each bite. When chewing, try and imagine how your food got to your table, and also try and actually taste each bite. Eat with friends, because eating should be an enjoyable experience. Gathering around a dinner table with close friends and family is one of life’s delicacies and should not be something that brings distress.

3. Eat “screen free”

Put down your phone, turn off the TV, sit down at a table, and enjoy your meal. Try and take at least 20 minutes to eat your meal. Distracted eating is what leads to over snacking and overeating. After every few bites, reassess your body, and think “am I actually still hungry, or does this just taste really good?” By putting down your phone and turning off all distractions as well, it turns eating into a peaceful break in your day and allows you to put your stressors on hold and enjoy conversation with friends, family, and coworkers.

Along with eating screen free and being aware of your eating; give yourself smaller portions. You can always get more!! At restaurants, portion sizes are huge and not something that you should feel like you need to finish, unless you are truly hungry for it. If that’s the case, then dig in, GUILT FREE.

4. Eat sustainably, eat real food

Sustainable eating is a part of mindful eating because you are being aware of what you are putting into your body. With sustainability being needed now more than ever, eating locally helps to reduce the levels of carbon emission we produce. Think about it. Getting food from California takes a lot of gas and chemicals to get that product across the country here to Massachusetts. Try eating fruits and veggies that are in season near you and try to reduce the amount of red meat you consume. Another ingredient to be on the lookout for is palm oil. Palm oil is in about 40% of foods and has led to the destruction of many Indonesian rainforests due to clearing of trees for the palm oil plants. However, palm oil is the most efficient vegetable oil to produce and there are many companies that are working to improve the industry. Look for the RSPO label on foods and products containing palm oil. This ensures the that the the palm oil is sustainably produced.

 

5. Gratitude towards our food, our bodies

We are blessed to live in a place where we have easy access to food. However, because of this, we also have greater knowledge of what’s in our food. With more knowledge comes more problems. People live in fear of eating a piece of bread or cheese because the internet told them that carbs and dairy are the enemy. This is not a way to live. We need to realize how blessed we are to live in a place where we can eat what we want, and be thankful for our health. Mindful eating makes you appreciate your health and helps you to view food as nourishment, whether it be for your cells or for your mind. Food is a happy part of life, whether it be sharing it on holidays or cooking with a loved one. It should not be something that's over thought, food is something that should be enjoyed.

 

Sources: 1,2,3,4

Photos: 1,2,3