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Everything You Need to Know About Mindful Eating

Meal time ≠ screen time.

Mindful eating, i.e. the art of not mindlessly shovelling in your food while watching Netflix is not only good for your mental health but your body health too, being linked to weight loss, healthy blood sugar and fat levels and improved digestion. The best bit is it’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle. You don’t need to know how to meditate or have read Shantaram to know how to apply mindfulness to your eating habits. Here’s how to get started:

The art of being mindful

If you don’t *quite* know what being mindful really entails, it’s basically about being present, taking note of what’s happening in the moment and without distractions. According to Mindful, mindfulness is ‘the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us’. You can apply this form of meditation to your meals by being fully present while eating and being totally aware of what you’re consuming.

What’s so bad about ‘mindless’ eating?

You’re not alone if you eat a lot of your meals while watching series, barely looking at your plate. Most of us eat mindlessly; drinking a smoothie in the car on the way to work or stuffing in a wrap while sitting at your desk, all done while simultaneously scrolling through Instagram.

If you’re not being mindful during meal times, then you’re probably overeating. Your stomach takes about 20 minutes before it tells your brain that you’re full, which is a lot of time for you to keep snacking. Eating too much can lead to bloating, digestive issues and weight gain.

Being distracted or in a rush while eating causes stress, and your body’s reaction to stress is to channel blood flow away from your digestive organs. Not exactly conducive to things running regularly down there. Feeling stressed also makes us crave comfort foods, which are almost always sugary, carb-y and just unhealthy in general.

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The benefits of eating mindfully

Besides actually appreciating your food mindful eating can also help your health and well-being:

  1. It makes you happier: Studies show that mindful eating can make you feel more positive and peaceful.
  2. It’s good for your weight and digestion: When you eat slowly your stomach is better able to digest your food and its nutrients. You’re also less likely to overeat, plus applying a mindful approach to eating has been shown to aid weight loss, especially around the stomach area.
  3. It helps with cravings: When you begin to eat mindfully you develop a better relationship with food. You’ll be better at recognising when you’re actually hungry and when you’re just eating your feelings and should probably put the Nutella jar down.
  4. You’ll be less low-level stress: Eating in a hurry makes your body low-key stressed, so practicing this way of eating is going to help it chill TF out.

How to practice mindful eating

You don’t need to burn incense or strike a gong to eat mindfully; anyone can do it, anywhere!

Take your time

Give yourself about 10 to 20 minutes to consume every meal. It might sound unfathomable but it’s important and just a few moments away from the TL; you’ll live.

Choose your spot

Be intentional with where you eat. That means no more eating on the go or behind your laptop. Sit somewhere where you won’t be distracted by emails, your phone or YouTube.

Be grateful

Even if you aren’t someone who prays, take a moment before eating to express gratitude for what you’re about to eat.

Use all of your senses

The easiest way to remember how to be present while eating is by thinking of your senses. How does your food taste? What does it feel like? What colours and textures can you see? What different flavours can you smell? Take note of these changing sensations while you eat.

Savour the flavour

Make every bite count. Act like you’re Paul Hollywood tasting a baguette during bread week on The Great British Bake Off and really savour that portion in your mouth, taking time to consider all the flavours and textures.

Check-in

Remember to keep pausing to assess how your body feels. Are you full yet? Do you want to eat more? Or can the rest go in a Tupperware for your next mindful eating bonanza?

This is how to remind yourself to be mindful

Can you relate to these phrases while eating? If yes then well done, you’re being present:

  • I want this food because I am hungry, not because I feel sad or bored.
  • I have chosen this food because I know it’s going to make me feel good and is healthy for my body.
  • I am aware of how my food tastes, smells, feels and looks while eating.
  • I am not doing anything else while eating.

If you’re struggling to focus then try listening to a guided meditation while eating. YouTube and the Headspace meditation app have meditations specifically for mindful eating.

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