To better understand the concept of mindful eating it will be helpful to first consider mindfulness in more general terms. To be mindful is to use our minds to look inside, outside and all around; to consider our actions and how they affect ourselves, others and the world around us. Mindfulness is usually associated with meditation and stress relief but it can also be a powerful tool when choosing what we eat, how we're eating and how our choices affect our health and that of our environment. Let's take a closer look at how we can apply mindfulness to our everyday eating behaviors.
To be mindful is to be aware so when eating, be aware of the 'who, what, when, where, why and how'.
WHY are you eating? Are you hungry? Stressed out? Sad? Celebrating something? Keep a food journal and watch for trends in your eating habits. You may discover that you eat more high-fat, high-calorie foods when you are stressing. If you are aware of this trend you will be able to look for other ways to relieve stress that don't involve energy-dense foods that may ultimately be leading to your weight gain.
WHAT are you eating? Pay attention to food labels, ingredient lists and sourcing. Avoid foods that trigger a stress response in your body, namely refined sugars and carbohydrates. If you see these in the first 5 ingredients, find something else. Remember you are what you eat and also what you eat eats. Opt for quality over quantity.
WHEN are you eating? Avoid skipping meals if possible. Instead, try to evenly space your meals and snacks throughout the day which will be easier on your body's digestive system.
WHO is growing your food and WHERE does your food come from? Several factors affect nutrition content such as variety, production method, post-harvest handling, storage and transportation. Most often local food will be higher in nutrition content simply because it has traveled a shorter distance and the varieties chosen are for taste, not shelf stability.
HOW are you eating? This is perhaps the most important part. Engage your five senses and slow down to really appreciate and savor the experience. Eating is very sensual and perhaps our greatest weapon against disease.
How many items can you check off in the Awareness Checklist? Mindful eating takes practice and should be practiced everyday for best results.
|Awareness Checklist||Mindless Eating|
|Am I sitting?||Emotional eating|
|Eating fast or slow?||Grazing without tasting each bite|
|Mindlessly munching or savoring each bite?||Eating on schedule whether you're hungry or not|
|Multitasking or focused on my meal?||Skipping meals, not paying attention to hunger cues|
|Listening to my hunger cues (hungry, satisfied, full)?||Mindlessly munching while watching T.V or driving|
|Eating out of boredom, stress or anxiety?||Maxing then feeling guilty|
"When walking, walk. When eating, eat."
- Rashaski Zen Proverb
Check out this Recipe for Disaster: Mixing Negative Self-Talk with Eating Behaviors. Could your inner dialogue be impeding your progress? Learn how to change your negative thoughts into realistic beliefs.