What is Mindful Eating?
The concept of mindfulness has picked up in popularity over the past few years. It is a mental state focused on the present moment while accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. It’s the idea of being more aware of, rather than reacting to, your choices and situation.
Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to your food and the experience of eating. It involves savoring your food, noticing the sensations in your mouth, and enjoying the taste, texture, and aroma of your meals. The goal of mindful eating is to create a healthier relationship with food and to develop a greater awareness of your hunger and fullness cues. It’s done without judgment or guilt, but rather an awareness of what you’re putting into your body.
Mindful eating is based on the idea that many of us eat mindlessly, without fully engaging with our food or our bodies. We might eat while distracted by TV, phone, or other screens, or we might rush through meals without really tasting the food. Mindful eating encourages us to slow down, pay attention, and enjoy our food more fully.
There is scientific evidence that backs mindful eating. One study divided 194 obese adults into two groups; one followed a diet and exercise program along with mindfulness concepts such as yoga, journaling or meditation and the other group followed the same program without mindfulness. After a year, the mindfulness group had reported that they ate less sweets and had maintained their fasting blood glucose levels. Although there was little difference in the amount of weight lost between the two groups, the mindfulness group saw a better effect on overall health.
Practicing Mindful Eating
There is currently no standard for mindful eating, but experts are coming up with practices to help simplify it for anyone who is interested. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and Harvard nutritionist Dr. Lillian Chueng have come up with seven steps in their book Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. The book is a practical guide on how to incorporate mindful eating into your life.
Honor the food. Acknowledge the people who grew the food and where it came from.
Engage all senses. Take note of the food through your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Observe things like texture, temperature, and color and who you feel when eating. Pause to engage the senses.
Serve in modest portions. Use a dinner plate no more than 9 inches across and only fill the plate once. This helps you avoid overeating or wasting food.
Savor small bites, and chew thoroughly. Experience the full flavor of the food.
Eat slowly to avoid overeating. Eating slowly helps you to recognize the feeling of satisfaction so that you can stop eating.
Don’t skip meals. The idea behind this is that if you go too long without eating, you’ll feel more hungry and may opt to choose something easy, quick, and possibly less healthy. Eat your meals and snacks at around the same time every day and plan for enough time to enjoy them.
Eat a plant-based diet, for your health and for the planet. The authors want readers to consider what the long term effects of some foods may be. Processed foods and unhealthy fats are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer and heart disease. Production of animal-based foods like meat and dairy takes a heavier toll on our environment than plant-based foods.
These steps are all simple and easy to adopt at any meal and at any time. The 7th step is more of a personal choice, but is one that the authors feel is important in the practice of mindful eating.
A Few More Tips for Practicing Mindful Eating
The concept behind mindful eating is really simple. It’s really all about truly enjoying food!
The 6 or 7 concepts above can be expanded on further.
Make sure that when you eat, you’re present at meals. This means you should turn off the TV, put away your phone, and try to eat in a distraction-free environment. Eat with intention by taking a moment to reflect on why you're eating and what you hope to get out of your meal. Practice mindful eating in everyday life and to eat mindfully at least once a day. It’s something you can do quietly at home or in public.
Remember to be kind to yourself. It's okay to indulge sometimes, and try not to judge yourself for your food choices!
Can Mindful Eating Help Me Lose Weight?
Yes, practicing mindful eating may help you lose weight and be healthier. Here are some ways that mindful eating can support weight loss and overall health:
Increased awareness of hunger and fullness cues: Mindful eating helps you tune into your body's natural hunger and fullness cues, so you're more likely to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're satisfied, rather than eating based on external cues like clocks or social pressures. This can lead to more balanced and intuitive eating patterns.
Reduced overeating: When you're mindful of your eating, you're more likely to notice when you're feeling satisfied and stop eating before feeling stuffed. This can help you avoid overeating and reduce your overall calorie intake.
Improved digestion: Mindful eating involves paying attention to the sensations of eating, including the taste, texture, and smell of your food. This can help you slow down and chew your food more thoroughly, which can improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
Healthier food choices: When you're mindful of your eating, you're more likely to make healthier food choices, as you're more aware of the taste, texture, and nutritional value of your food. This can lead to a more balanced and nutritious diet.
Reduced stress: Mindful eating can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to weight gain and other health problems. When you're more relaxed and present during meals, you're more likely to enjoy your food and feel satisfied, which can lead to a healthier relationship with food.
Improved self-awareness: Mindful eating involves paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations during meals. This can help you become more aware of your patterns and habits around food, which can lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth.
Supporting Mindful Eating with Medication
Scientists are still learning whether or not some weight loss medications are sustainable long term. On a personal level, the cost may be too steep for some people to continue with for years on end.
If you’ve been approved for a prescription weight loss drug through Qyral, you can practice mindful eating to help change some bad habits you’ve developed. Because eating usually has a psychological component, mindful eating may be a great way to help change your mindset around food. The medication supports the mindset. Certain foods may become unappetizing and you will probably feel full for longer. Take note of how you feel. Learn to associate that feeling with food so that if you are not on medication long term, your head will be in a different place when it comes to eating.
Mindful eating is not a quick fix or a diet, but rather a long-term practice that can help you develop healthier habits and a more balanced relationship with food. Combining mindful eating with other healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and adequate sleep, can get you a step closer to optimal health and weight management.