The majority of us tend to rush our meals, often multi-tasking while we eat. This tendency to eat in a distracted and unfocused way often means we eat we’re not really hungry.
As a result, we don’t always enjoy our meals or are left craving more food because we haven’t allowed our brains to register the fact that we have eaten.
“Mindful eating is about eating with attention and intention,” says Dr Cinzia Pezzolesi, a clinical psychologist and mindfulness teacher who holds courses in mindful eating.
Instead of eating while watching the TV or wolfing down a sandwich on the move, Cinzia explains that mindful eating is about “using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body”.
“People are starting to realise that there isn’t a magic wand or a quick fix to weight loss,” says Mandy Pearson, who co-authored the book Mindful Eating with Rachel Bartholomew. “Mindfulness brings awareness to your eating habits and that’s the first step to long-lasting change.”
Mindful eating can help people fathom out the reasons why they overeat, or choose unhealthy foods. “We help people become detectives about their eating habits, both emotional and nutritional,” says Mandy.
“Once you become aware, you can start making small changes that will add up to a big difference over time. Also, when you slow down, bring your full attention to your food and listen to your body whilst eating, it becomes very difficult to overeat.”
Five tips for mindful eating
1. Slow down and enjoy it
Approach the food you are about to eat with curiosity and eat using all your senses. “Take the time to inhale the aromas and really look at the colours of the food, explains Mandy. “Then close your eyes and roll it round all the tastebuds on your tongue and be aware of the texture as you chew it slowly.”
2. Have Breakfast
“A rushed, stressful breakfast or, worse still, none at all, usually leads to a rushed, stressful day,” says Mandy. “So sit down to a leisurely breakfast – switch off all distractions and plan to eat in silence so you can be fully present.”
3. Notice when you’re hungry
“Begin to notice how often you eat due to physical hunger or perhaps other triggers,” says Cinzia. “These could be social events, stress or boredom.” If you find that you reach for a biscuit whenever you feel bored, try to distract yourself by doing something else like painting your nails or reading a book. Ask yourself how hungry you are before you begin eating and again halfway through your meal. If you begin to feel full, don’t keep wolfing food down. Keep what’s left and have it for lunch the next day.
4. Make yourself wait
“If you have a 3pm chocolate habit that you want to change, tell yourself you can have the chocolate bar but only in ten minutes,” says Mandy. “This creates awareness around the habit and also time for reflection. Often, once the ten minutes is up, the chocolate craving has disappeared. If this simple exercise is practised each time it arises, the old habit starts to fall away and newer, healthier habits can be put in their place.”
5. Abandon your knife and fork
“Swap hands with your knife and fork, eat with chopsticks or with your fingers,” suggests Mandy. “When you shake up your habits you send the message to your brain that you can make change.’ Eating more consciously means eating more mindfully and ultimately more lightly.
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