Mindful Eating: 8 Ways to Eat More Mindfully
Do you sometimes wonder why you made a certain food choice? Have you ever eaten to a point of physical discomfort? Have you ever had that experience when you looked down and you had eaten a whole bag of chips when you had intended “just to eat a few”?
The common thread in these scenarios is often that we were distracted while eating. What is the opposite of distracted? Being present, or mindful of the present moment.
What do we know about mindful eating and how can we apply that to our lives so we can foster a healthier relationship with eating? Let's take a look.
Background on Mindful Eating
Mindful eating has been defined by making conscious food choices by developing an awareness of physical versus psychological hunger and fullness, and then eating healthfully in response to those cues.
Various tools have been used in studies to assess mindful eating interventions. These studies have ranged from looking at the effect of these interventions in binge eating, people with overweight/obesity and normal weight as well as in emotional eating. This concept has even been examined in people with type 2 diabetes in attempts to improve dysregulated eating.
Mindfulness interventions have been found to be most clearly effective in those with:
1. Binge eating, regardless of weight status
2. Emotional eating
3. Eating related to external cues: This occurs when we rely on environmental cues like package size to determine how much we eat, rather than relying on internal cues like fullness
What are 8 ways we can be more mindful in our eating?
Eat without distractions: Turn off the TV, get off your phone or computer and focus on the meal. You are more likely to recognize signs of fullness without the distraction.
Eat slowly: Some studies have shown an increase in release of hormones from the intestines that tells our brain and body that we are “full” when we eat slower.
Use all your senses: When eating a food, notice how it looks, the color, how it feels, smells and then chew it slowly to really sense the taste. In studies, this has been practiced using a raisin, and then moving on to other more complex foods.
Do a mini-mediation: Before eating, for example, in a buffet, take a few deep breaths, become aware of sensations in the body, including hunger, and then choose how to respond with food choices and portions.
Notice a change in taste: When eating a particular food like ice cream, notice how the taste continues to change with additional bites as you become satisfied and then stop eating.
Check in with hunger: “Am I really hungry?” versus maybe “I am thirsty.” Ask yourself if you are feeling an emotion that is causing you to turn to food. Sometimes cues can be environmental. For example, being at a particular social event causes you to eat when you are not hungry. This can help with automatic eating.
Have alternative coping strategies: If you are feeling emotions are the reason you are eating, come up with other activities you enjoy to do instead: examples are read a book, take a walk, call a friend.
Don’t follow the clock: Eat when you are getting hunger cues from your body rather than when the clock says it is time to eat a meal. People who listen to internal hunger cues tend to weigh less.
Which of these techniques do you think you can start trying right away?
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