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Jan 16, 2020 02:27 PM EST

How to Be More Mindful When You Eat

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How to Be More Mindful When You Eat

(Photo : Unsplash)

Mindful eating is something that we should all prioritize in the new year. Many of us practice anything but mindful eating. We might eat while we drive, which can be bad in terms of weight but also, eating can be a distraction that leads to accidents. 

We may eat at our desks while we work, or while we watch television. Eating while you're doing other things can lead to food issues, weight gain, and other health issues. Mindful eating can help combat these effects. 

What Is Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness is a term that's being used more frequently in areas outside of eating. As we are all often very connected to our jobs and the outside world because of technology, it's easy to have divided attention and ultimately not be present in what we're doing at any given moment. 

Mindfulness is a term that's grown in popularity because of our current multitasking environment. 

When you're mindful, it encourages you to be present and consciously focused on whatever you're doing at any given time. 

Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as paying attention in a particular purposeful way in the present moment. 

When people learn to practice mindfulness, it can help them manage anxiety, depression and sleep problems more effectively. 

Mindfulness is something that can be used to help us be more cognizant of what we're eating and how we're eating as well. Mindful eating is a tool that you can use to gain control over your eating habits to help with weight loss, reducing unhealthy behaviors like binge eating and to help you feel better overall. 

Critical components of mindful eating include:

  • Eating without distractions

  • Eating slowly

  • Listening to your hunger cues and stopping eating when you're full

  • Learning how to differentiate between true hunger and other non-hunger eating triggers

  • Engaging your senses and noticing flavors, textures, colors, and smells

  • Eating for health and well-being

  • Noticing how food affects you

  • Developing an appreciation for food

When you practice mindful eating, you gain a better understanding of your body's cues and what your body wants to tell you. You may find that you often aren't sure if you're eating because of hunger or some other reason when you start moving toward mindful eating.

You can also start looking at things like anxiety or fatigue and see if those are actually what's triggering you to eat. That then allows you to figure out ways to deal with these issues without food. 

What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness When You're Eating?

The following are some of the many benefits of mindful eating:

  • You learn how to appreciate every moment of food and also it helps you do the same in other areas of your life. 

  • You can cut down on food cravings because you're learning more about the urges that are driving you to indulge in certain foods. 

  • You learn how to stop eating because your taste buds have had enough of a certain flavor. 

  • Weight loss can be one of the big benefits of mindful eating for many people. When you start feeding real hunger cues, you're likely to lose weight, plus you're being more thoughtful about the types of food you're choosing. 

  • If you have negative habits surrounding food or a negative relationship with food, mindfulness, when you eat can help you change your patterns. 

  • Mindfulness, in general, even if it's not just related to eating, can help lower cortisol levels, blood pressure, stress levels, and heart rate. 

  • One specific study published in the journal Obesity found that mindful eating may lower the ratio of bad cholesterol to good cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, and it may also help control blood sugar. 

  • Mindful eating can take away a preoccupation with eating. 

Tips to Practice Mindful Eating

With all the potential benefits, you may wonder how to put mindful eating into practice. The following are helpful tips:

  • Slow down when you eat so that your body can catch up to your brain. Your brain often knows it's full and satiated before your body, so you want to let the brain and body have enough time to communicate with one another. The body will send its fullness signals around 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often overeat without realizing it. If you slow down when you eat, you can appropriately deal with this lag time. 

  • Start slow with mindful eating. It takes practice and getting used to if you want to make this an ongoing habit. Begin with maybe one meal a day or one day a week where you really work toward more mindfulness and then expand out from there. 

  • Take a minute to reflect before you eat. Think about how you feel at that very moment. Are you eating because you're hungry, or is there a different emotion at play that might be driving you to eat? Consider not just your hunger cues, but also your feelings. 

  • Don't eat with a screen. This includes a TV screen, a tablet, a phone or a computer. When you eat while distracted, you may end up looking down at your plate and having no idea what happened to the food. 

  • If possible, eat in silence, so you're there with your thoughts. You may not be able to do this during family dinner, so instead, do it for breakfast or lunch. 

  • Try eating with your hand that's not dominant. For example, if you're right-handed, eat with your left because it'll force you to put more thought into what you're doing. 

  • As you eat, think about what it took to get that food to you from start-to-finish. 

  • Try to set consistent times to have your meals. This can prevent wandering around from cabinet-to-cabinet on a search for food. 

Finally, as you work on practicing mindful eating, you'll want to think about the nutritional value of the food you're consuming. Are you consuming it because it's going to fuel your body, or because it provides emotional comfort?

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