The four tried and trusted pillars of a healthy lifestyle – move more, stress less, love more and eat well – may not always yield the desired results in weight management. To augment the eat well part of one’s lifestyle, some people have benefitted from the practice of mindful eating.
Mindful eating is a well-established technique to take control over eating habits whereby you not only focus on what you eat (“eat well”), but to also focus on how you eat and why you eat. This technique has gained strong report as a component of weight management programmes in the USA, where about one in three Americans are overweight or obese.
Mindful eating can assist with weight loss by changing eating behavior. It is based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which can help to develop a habit of using all your senses in selecting food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body. The heightened awareness of food continues with your eating experience – where you mindfully concentrate on the origin of the food and how it has ended up on your plate, and then appreciating the taste and texture of every mouthful. This process also helps to control binge eating (eating large amounts of food quickly and mindlessly), emotional eating (eating in response to certain emotions) and external stimuli eating (eating in response to the smell and sight of food.)
The Healthline website has some tips on how to get started with mindful eating:
- “Eat more slowly and don’t rush your meals.
- Chew thoroughly
- Eliminate distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone.
- Focus on how the food makes your feel.
- Stop eating when you’re full.
- Ask yourself why you’re eating. Are you actually hungry? Is it healthy?”
In order to effectively implement mindful eating, start off with practicing on one meal a day.
Harvard offers tips on how to eat more mindfully:
- “Sit in a pleasant, calm environment with no distractions, with the exception of your meal companions.
- Ponder what it took to produce your meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes and pace yourself so you spend at least that much time eating.
- Put your utensils down between bites.
- Take small bites and chew them well, noticing the different flavours and textures of each mouthful.
- Before you help yourself to seconds or dessert, pause and take time to consider whether you’re actually still hungry.”
Try to practice awareness when eating out in restaurants, especially be aware of portion sizes.
Even the size of the dinner plate can determine how much you dish up and consume during a meal.
Open your heart to mindful eating. Published July 2018 in Harvard Heart Letter. Harvard Medical School. (www.health.harvard.edu)
Mindful eating 101 – a beginner’s guide. Published 15 January 2016 in Authority Nutrition. Healthline. (www.healthline.com)
Social dining: Mindfully eating together. Published in Spring (USA) 2018 edition of Food for Thought. A publication of The Center for Mindful Eating. (www.thecenter for mindfuleating.org)