Mindful eating is the process of slowing down and paying attention to your actual eating experience without judgment. This may sound simple, but it can be challenging if you’ve made a habit of eating mindlessly.
Developing a mindful eating practice can help to improve your digestion and get more enjoyment out of your food, as well as make you more aware of your body’s signals and the motivations behind your eating habits. It can also help normalize food behaviors and improve your relationship with food and your body.
A Mindset—Not a Diet
Mindful eating isn’t a diet. It doesn’t mean restricting yourself from certain foods, and there is no directive as to portion size or optimal meal times. Eating mindfully is a mindset that requires you to slow down, calm your mind, and allow your body to decide what it needs.
The world we live in is a busy place and eating mindfully can be a real challenge, but there are a few simple strategies we can put in place to help bring more informal mindfulness to our daily meals.
Here are 5 tips that you can use to practice eating more mindfully:
1) Prepare your mind and body.
You can prepare your mind and body for a mindful eating experience while you are preparing your food. Take in all the sights and smells—this tells your body it’s mealtime and readies it to accept nourishment. If you’re eating at a restaurant, take in the sights and smells around you as you are waiting for your meal to be served.
2) Sit and be still.
Slowing down is one of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need in the way of nutrition. Before you take the first bite, make sure you’re seated, take a deep breath, and express gratitude for all of the people who had a hand in growing and making your food (including yourself!). Try to dedicate at least part of the meal to silent enjoyment of the food.
3) Develop a routine and a ritual.
Mind and body are positively impacted when we eat at consistent times and places. This also helps to boost mood and improve your sleep. A ritual may include setting the table, or putting on your favorite music before enjoying your meal.
4) Connect with yourself and others.
When eating alone, make note of how the food tastes as you chew and slowly and savor it. Pay attention to how your body reacts. Take a moment to pause and consider all the people involved in making that meal on your plate possible, realizing our interconnectedness. When eating a meal with friends or family, connect with them over the meal by talking about the food together.
5) Listen to your body’s cues.
Sometimes you may eat for emotional comfort. Instead of allowing your mind to call the shots—try taking cues from your body. Is your stomach growling or is your energy low? Mindful eating involves listening to our body’s hunger signals.
When you’ve had enough to eat, or when you want more, recognize and honor those internal cues as natural and healthy. (Note: significant intake of sugar and processed foods can disrupt the body’s natural fullness cues.) If you find yourself overeating, start with small portion sizes and wait a few minutes before getting a second helping. The body sends the signal that we’re satiated about about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often unconsciously overeat.
Progress, not Perfection
Mindfulness is not easy in this hectic world we live in—it takes time and dedication to master. Work your way up to eating mindfully every day, and forgive yourself when you don’t. Part of successfully changing your mindless eating habit is being aware that you don’t always have the time or energy to eat mindfully. Be patient with yourself, and enjoy the process of building a stronger mind-body connection and savoring your food.
Let Us Help You Flourish
At Flourish! we take an integrative approach to treating clients through mindfulness-based psychotherapy, nutritional services, and wellness consultations. A holistic approach allows us to provide individualized treatment, customized to the needs of each client. By evaluating the whole person, we’re able to get to the root cause of your symptoms and provide the most effective treatment plan so that you can live a fuller, happier life.
The most important value that all of our practitioners share: mindfulness. We believe mindfulness is key to cultivating well-being, but we understand that getting there often requires the guidance of an experienced and trusted facilitator.
If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or a mood disorder, coupled with chronic illness and/or digestive problems, you could benefit from the integrative nutrition and mindfulness-based treatment options available at Flourish!