Do you find yourself eating on the run a lot? Or do you tend to multi-task while you eat, often replying to emails or watching TV at the same time? So many of us have busy lives, which means that taking time out of our day to sit and enjoy a meal is often not a huge priority. Before we know it, unhealthy eating habits can set in.
Today, I’m going to give you some tips on how to eat mindfully. This practice can help you to develop a healthy relationship with food and to kick some of those bad habits.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a set of strategies that can help you to eat with ‘intention and attention’ — that is, to really focus on what you are eating. When you eat mindfully, you become aware of how food looks, how it smells and tastes.
Eating mindfully can involve paying attention to why you feel like eating (Is it out of hunger? Boredom?), to what you are eating and how it makes you feel when you eat it.
You might already know what mindfulness is — eating mindfully is a part of the overall mindfulness practice.
Benefits of learning to eat mindfully
There are a number of benefits of mindful eating! When you consciously focus on how you eat, it can help you to find enjoyment in eating, among other benefits.
Some of the benefits of mindful eating are:
- You can learn to listen to your body and identify how food makes you feel.
- Eating mindfully encourages you to really taste the food you are eating — so you may find new foods you enjoy!
- You can learn to identify when you start to feel full, reducing the chance of overeating.
- Eating mindfully encourages you to chew your food thoroughly, which can be helpful for your digestive process.
- Mindful eating can help to remove any outside influences from your meal (such as how many calories are in the meal), as well as helping to reduce emotional eating.
You may have already picked up on this but I want to point it out again — mindful eating is not a ‘fad’ or a ‘diet’. It’s about developing a healthy attitude towards eating, trying to really connect with the food we eat and how it affects our body and our wellbeing.
How to eat mindfully
Mindful eating can help you to become more aware of your senses and to savour the food you are eating.
Keep in mind that while these tips can get you started, there is no right or wrong way to eat mindfully!
1. Eat when you are hungry
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?! Some days you may be starving and want to eat early because you had a tough workout. Other days, you might wake up late and decide to push your meals back to later in the day.
Pay attention to your body and the signs it gives you when you are genuinely hungry. You’ll learn to identify the way your body signals it is hungry — meaning you can become less likely to eat out of boredom.
2. Have an eating routine
Don’t worry if you struggle to keep a regular meal time because of shift work or because of family commitments. This step is less about the time of day you eat and more about how and where you eat! Removing yourself from distractions and focusing on what you are eating is a big part of being mindful.
For example, if you tend to eat while watching TV, try moving to a table away from the living room. You’ll be more likely to enjoy your food and find it more satiating when you are focused on it.
Set aside time for meals where possible. Try to eat in a relaxed environment, somewhere you can shut off (or at least limit) distractions. Doing this allows you to focus on the meal in front of you.
3. Eat slowly and pay attention to your senses
To eat mindfully means engaging your senses! Pay attention to how your food looks and smells. As you take a bite, pay attention to the texture of the food and think about how it tastes.
Try to savour the tastes of the food — you might discover some new flavours you enjoy, which can open up many new possibilities for other meals too!
4. Put your utensils down
Next time you eat, try to put your utensils down between mouthfuls. You are more likely to chew your food thoroughly (better for your digestion) and it gives you time to assess whether you are becoming full.
5. Enjoy your meal!
The biggest takeaway from mindful eating is to be present when you eat. Don’t feel that you have to follow every step in this list every time you sit down to eat. You might like to focus on one area at a time.
If you want to learn to eat mindfully, try to ditch negative thoughts about food — try not to think of your food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. While eating healthily is important for energy, growth and overall wellbeing, having a good relationship with food is even more important. If you restrict the foods you love or tell yourself that particular foods are ‘off-limits’, it can take the enjoyment away from eating.
Practice eating mindfully
When you first try to eat mindfully, you may find it a little bit difficult. That’s okay — changing your behaviour and eating habits takes time! Don’t try to be perfect, simply find a way of eating mindfully that works for you.
Pick a couple of healthy recipes that offer colour, flavour and texture — like my Bun Cha Salad Bowl — this can make it easier to really pay attention to what you are eating.
You might have seen on my social media that meal time is often part of family time for me. This means we all take our time to eat and dining together becomes even more enjoyable! If you can, try making meals part of your family time. It can make a difference!