Mindful eating can be beneficial in many ways, from supporting your digestive process to making you more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues.
Why Do We Eat?
Before we get into the steps you can take to start mindful eating with your next meal, let’s get back to the start and look at why we eat.
This seems like a very simple question — we need food. We need macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and good fats. We need micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. The more active our lifestyle, the more of these nutrients we need. To survive, we must eat.
While we need to eat to live, it’s not the only reason we eat. We celebrate with food. Whether it’s a birthday, wedding, graduation, or job promotion, food will always be involved. We find comfort in food and use food as a reason to socialize and spend time with our loved ones. Let’s not forget, food tastes good. There are many different reason why we eat — what truly matters here is how we eat.
What is Mindless Eating?
Ever forget that you just ate? It’s probably because you were eating mindlessly. Most often mindless eating happens when we’re rushed, multitasking, or bored. Ever have a morning where you simply grab a piece of toast or a bar as you run out the door? You might eat while driving to work and take bites between changing lanes, fiddling with the radio, and honking at the driver that just cut you off. Being rushed leads to multitasking during a meal — removing the mindful component of eating.
Another example of mindless eating is eating while in a trance. You’re craving an evening snack so you head to the kitchen and grab a bowl of your favorite munchies. You make a bowl of popcorn and as you’re watching TV you reach your hand in the bowl and take a bite, then reach in for another bite, and another — suddenly you reach your hand in only to find an empty bowl. Oops! Regardless of why mindless eating happens, when you eat mindlessly, you lose touch with your natural hunger and fullness signals which may cause you to eat more than you would otherwise.
How to Eat Mindfully
Mindful eating is being aware of what, why, and how you eat. It’s an awareness of why you’re craving food, as well as your hunger signals before (and during) each meal. Mindful eating involves avoiding distraction and concentrating on the flavors and textures of each bite. To practice mindful eating, grab a bite-size piece of your favorite food (such as a piece of banana), and follow the steps below:
1. Before eating, pause and take a deep breath in through your nose, and slowly exhale.
2. Take your piece of food and hold it between your fingers. Experience the texture of the food and take in the colors. Bring the food to your nose and be aware of the different scents this food offers.
3. Close your eyes, place the food on your tongue and close your mouth without chewing. Move the food around your mouth and taste the different flavors. Be aware of what your tongue is doing while you chew! If you’re using a piece of banana, salivary amylase (the enzyme found in your saliva) will already be breaking down the starches found in the banana.
4. Chew the piece of food three times and pause. Continue to chew the food but do not swallow it until you have chewed it a minimum of 25 times! This will create a paste-like consistency that will require minimal work for the rest of your digestive system.
5. Take a deep breath, and repeat.
Do you need to do this every time you eat, with every bite? No, not if that doesn’t work for you. But we encourage you to try it and see how you feel. See what comes up for you. That’s the whole purpose; to connect to yourself, your body and your food then notice what happens.
This blog post was originally published August 11, 2020 on myvega.com. You can see the original post here.