General health

How to Embrace Mindfulness at Every Meal


What is Mindful Eating and how is it important?

People often seem to talk about mindful eating but what exactly is it? Mindful eating is an approach to food that focuses on being fully present while you’re eating. It increases awareness of your thoughts, senses, and feelings during and after you eat.

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I’m on a constant treadmill. Being a wife, mother, daughter, and professional means I have become the queen of multitasking. I’m sure you can all relate. Having such a busy life can cause havoc as it negatively affects eating behaviours and overall wellbeing!

Left with minimal time for food planning and actually sitting down to a meal, we find ourselves eating erratically, normally in a rush, without much thought and often in front of a screen.

If this is you, then I’d recommend you commit the next month to the practice of mindful eating.

What does this practically mean?

Benefits of Mindful Eating

Eating mindfully allows you to enjoy and appreciate your food by improving your relationship with food. Many people have a poor relationship with food, with many restricting unnecessarily which makes the whole eating experience unpleasant. Food forms such a large part of our everyday lives, so why not take pleasure in it and appreciate every bite?

Mindful eating aids digestions and helps regulate your appetite. It has even been found to help those who struggle with binge eating and emotional eating.

Seven Steps to Mindful Eating

1. Plan, plan, plan

Planning your meals is key to establishing positive eating behaviours. All it takes is 15 minutes once a week to plan your menu and shopping list for the week ahead. Having a plan in place prevents you from making poor food choices and takes the stress away of not knowing what to eat.

2. Eat at regular times

Try and eat something every three to four hours during the day. Eating at regular times throughout the day will help to regulate your hunger levels and prevent you from overeating because you are starving. Try to have three main meals a day, with a good breakfast to keep you fuelled. Most people benefit from having a mid-afternoon snack around 4pm.

3. Listen to your body

Do you know what it feels like to be hungry? Learning to listen to your body so you can recognise feelings of hunger is an important goal. It is best to avoid periods of extreme hunger and instead listen to your body and feed it according to its needs rather than for other reasons.

Recognising when you are full is just as important. This prevents you from overeating. Eat until you feel comfortably full but not extremely full. Your body knows what it requires so listen to it.

4. Reflect on your thoughts and feelings

Recognise when you are eating for reasons other than physical hunger. Sometimes emotions can trigger hunger, therefore, it is important to identify what drives your eating.

Some things that may help you recognise emotional hunger from physical hunger are:

5. Choose nourishment

There are no “good” or “bad” foods. All food has a part to play in a healthy, balanced diet. What is vital is a varied diet that includes all food groups in the correct quantities. Focus your attention on choosing foods that provide your body with optimal nourishment, satisfaction, and enjoyment.

6. Avoid distractions

This is probably the most difficult one of all. Challenge yourself to eat your meals and snacks at a table where you are focussed on the task at hand and in tune with feelings of hunger and satiety. Avoid eating in front of the TV, computer screen, phone or while reading. Give the act of eating the time it deserves! Your body will thank you later.

7. Slow down when eating

“Chew your food 20 times my dear”… I can still hear my grandmother’s voice. Have you ever consciously thought about the process of chewing? Try it next time you eat. Slowing down and chewing your food properly gives your body the time to recognise when it is full. This is because when your stomach has taken enough food, a hormone called leptin is released from fat tissues which send signals to the brain of fullness. It is thought, however, that it takes around 20 minutes for this process to occur.

Eating mindfully is important. It is very important. Listen to your body, Honour your body. Nourish your body. Treat your body with the love and respect it deserves by changing the way you behave around food. Invest in your relationship with food.

I promise you it is worth it.

Dietitian Caroline Gillies

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