2 Nov 2021

Mindful Eating

From how to cultivate self-awareness of what makes us hungry to mealtime rituals that improve the relationship between mind, body and food, this is a simple guide to mindful eating.

What is mindful eating?

It might be easier to say what it’s not. Which is no scrolling through Instagram on your phone as you mindlessly tuck into a bowl of steaming soup. No television dinners. Or tapping away on a laptop as you gulp down a sandwich at lunch. Instead, mindful eating is all about consuming food with intention, really savouring each mouthful and understanding why you are feeling hungry in the first place. What I’m interested in though, is intuitive eating which is a broader philosophy that works towards synergising mind, body and food, and using nutrition to improve the relationship between all three. It’s not a diet; it’s a mindset.

What makes us hungry?

Whether eating as part of socialising, out of boredom or as a way of cheering ourselves after a bad day, there are many reasons why we feel hungry. Some people eat to calm nerves; others, in case their stomach might start rumbling later. Either way, intuitive eating for physical (rather than emotional) reasons involves not manually and mentally overriding our natural instincts but rather listening to our bodies and their internal cues to tell us when, what and how much to eat.

How does a hunger scale work?

Using a hunger scale is a handy way of being able to tell the difference between feeling mildly peckish and absolutely ravenous. Registering as one or two on the scale (painfully hungry or very hungry) means you’ll want to eat soon; those who often find themselves at eight, nine or 10 (a little over-full, very full and uncomfortable, painfully full) are often experiencing weight gain and likely eating for emotional reasons rather than what the body actually needs. As it takes the stomach a little while to realise it’s full, try to stop eating when you reach five – ie. feeling neither full nor hungry – and wait for your mind and body to align.

Over time, you may end up eating less because the food is experienced more fully.

Talk us through mindful eating…

First you need to slow down and focus – that’s the goal – by taking a few moments to tune into your environment and with the desire to eat. Pick one meal during the day when you can block out 20-minutes to eat and, at the beginning at least, try to be alone. Really pay attention to what’s on your plate, noticing the colours, shapes, textures and smells of food. Try to identify the flavours in your mouth and chew thoroughly. It sounds simple but don’t be surprised if your mind wanders – it’s perfectly normal. Just try and bring your thoughts back to your plate and the experience of eating. Over time, you may end up eating less because the food is experienced more fully.

Any mindful eating rituals?

One of the best ways to prepare for mindful eating is to cook for yourself, rather than reheating leftovers from the freezer or phoning for a takeaway. The act of preparation, the smell of vegetables sizzling and the sight of a sauce simmering, all ignite that part of the brain that readies our bodies for nourishment. Other rituals could include setting the table, listening to relaxing music or writing a daily journal of your feelings and experiences around mindful eating. Finally, be patient: it can take weeks or months for mindful – or intuitive – eating to become part of your routine. Enjoy the process of building a stronger mind-body connection and improving your relationship with food along the way.

 

As a nutritional therapist I love helping people improve their relationship with food. Book your COMPLIMENTARY 30-MINUTE CALL with me and together we can discuss ways I can help you.

 

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