In the context of our modern lives, many of us don’t take the time to sit down and enjoy our meals. We eat while at our desk at work, driving, watching TV, scrolling social media, and clearing our inbox in an attempt to be more productive. We are often so hurried and distracted that we don’t even taste what we’re eating or notice how the food we’re eating affects our bodies and mood.
The solution? The practice of mindful eating. Just like any practice, this approach takes time and isn’t a quick fix. Eating with intention and awareness requires you to genuinely pay attention to what you’re eating: noticing the taste, texture and smell of your food, chewing slowly, savoring each individual bite of food before moving on to the next
What Exactly is Mindful Eating?
Let’s start with the basics. Mindful eating is not a weight loss solution. While it may result in weight loss for some, it’s so much more than just a weight loss tactic or diet. It’s also not simply eating slowly or chewing your food for a long time. While it does often involve slowing down at meal time, it’s about more than the pace at which you eat.
There are so many approaches to mindful eating but, simply put, my approach is to learn to pay attention while you eat. Instead of eating mindlessly (read: stuffing food into your mouth), you take a moment to slow down and savour your meal, sensations, feelings, and environment, enjoying your food with full awareness.
If you take the time to notice and enjoy your food, you’re likely to eat it more slowly—which means you’ll have eaten less by the time your brain becomes aware that your gut is telling you it’s full (a process that takes around 20 minutes). Savor your meals and you’ll likely enjoy them more and eat less. Sounds like the perfect deal.
How to Get Started with Mindful Eating
The next time you sit down to eat, look at your food and notice what’s on your plate. What colours do you see?
Before you dig in, take two deep belly breaths to help relax your body and prepare it for digestion before you even begin eating. Smell your food and notice your emotional state. Are you calm, anxious, or happy?
When you’re ready to finally take a bite, chew your food slowly and notice the temperature and taste of your food. Continue eating this way and pause to check in with yourself along the way. Notice if you’re enjoying what you’re eating and how satisfied and nourished you feel.
It may feel a bit silly at first, but it doesn’t need to be as exaggerated as it sounds. In time, it will feel very natural.
The Benefits of Mindful Eating
The benefits of eating mindfully are incredible and it’s helpful to know these benefits as you consider incorporating this practice into your routine.
Top benefits of mindful eating include:
- You’ll learn to listen to the cues of your body and only eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full and satisfied.
- You’ll learn to appreciate the look, smell, taste, and texture of your meals, and enjoy your food more as a result
- You’ll learn how food affects your mood (do certain foods make you feel more anxious, happy, or depressed?), and begin to connect your emotional state to your food and eating.
- You learn what foods best fuel your unique body and lifestyle based on how you feel while you’re eating and afterwards (e.g., are you – bloated, gassy, energized, etc.?)
- It can become a ritual you look forward to and meal times are generally more enjoyable.
Remember that mindful eating is so much more than eating slowly or chewing your food for a long time. Consider incorporating the practice into one meal per day and be gentle with yourself. Lasting change takes time and the more you practice, the easier it will become!
Danica is a holistic nutritionist, wellness expert and health coach on a mission to help women around the world find their optimal well-being. She is the founder of Nakd Health, where she coaches clients to prioritize wellness in their busy lives with delicious recipes, nutrition advice, fitness and lifestyle changes.