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Taking time to be mindful of your eating process and not focusing on restricting calories could enhance your awareness of the experience, improve your relationship with food and help you lose weight. Mindful eating can be an essential practice in today’s world, where multitasking is common practice. Multitasking while eating can lead to less satisfaction with your meals, less awareness of the food, and often, overeating.
This article explores mindful eating, its benefits and how to practice this healthy approach.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is a type of mindfulness meditation that focuses on being fully present and aware of one’s feelings, thoughts, physical sensations and environment during meals. As such, mindful eating makes you fully aware of the eating experience and your thoughts and feelings about food.
This concept encourages focusing on preparing and consuming your food in a distraction-free environment. By thinking about the food, you may become more aware of the signals your body sends to your brain that indicate satisfaction and fullness, which can help you improve your general health and well-being.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
Mindful eating offers several physical and mental health advantages, including the following:
- Better body cue recognition—You’ll better understand your body’s hunger, craving and fullness cues. You can also establish a better overall relationship with food when aware of your cues.
- Overeating prevention—Mindful eating allows you to check in with yourself and pause snacks or meals if you aren’t actually hungry. A pause can help you slow down and break the cycle of overeating and binge eating.
- Healthier food choices—When you’re more aware of how food makes you feel, you may choose more nutritious foods that can make you feel energized.
- Stress reduction—Mindfulness-based exercises, including mindful eating, can help reduce cortisol (or stress) levels.
- Weight loss—Although research is mixed on the definitive connection between mindful eating and weight loss, you’re likely to lose weight if you properly listen to your hunger cues.
Mindfulness practices may also help improve anxiety, depression, eating disorders and stress symptoms.
Tips for Mindful Eating
Mindful eating may sound simple, but it takes practice. Consider the following mindful eating tips:
- Honor your food. The mindful practice starts before the food is on your plate. It’s important to acknowledge where the food was grown and who prepared the meal.
- Evaluate your hunger. It’s equally important to continue to assess your appetite while eating. Checking in with your physical hunger and satiety sensations can help you learn your cues.
- Start with small portions. Modest portions can help you respect your hunger and satiety cues. Single-serving portions may also look more substantial on smaller plates or bowls.
- Pay attention to your food. Engage your senses and notice what you see (e.g., food texture, color and appeal), smell, feel (e.g., texture and temperature), taste and hear (e.g., crunch).
- Eliminate distractions. Being distracted while eating can fuel a negative relationship with food or lead to overeating or emotional eating. Also, avoid eating in a bedroom, living room or vehicle.
- Slow down. Make a conscious effort to chew your food more to aid digestion and allow more time to recognize your body’s cues.
- Don’t skip meals. Going too long without eating increases the risk of extreme hunger, which may lead to a quick and easy food choice—which is not always a healthy one.
Multitasking while eating has become the new normal, but you can be in control and aware of the process and your feelings. You can try the eating approach at your next meal or start small by attempting the practice once a week—for example, establish a “Mindful Monday.”
Contact a registered dietitian if you need additional help or guidance with mindful eating or general eating habits.
By Jennifer Outcelt, Creative Content Architect
The old “Make me a sandwich!” demand is often associated with a ne’er-do-well man demanding immediate sustenance from their submissive partner from the comfort of their couch. Normally I wouldn’t have a syllables worth of agreement with the ideals of these entitled individuals… but I have to admit, there just might be something to this whole sandwich thing.
Hear me out. What was the best sandwich you ever tasted? Did you make it? I think not! Unless you are some master Chef with the hoity-toitiest of sandwich recipes, I highly doubt a bread-meat-bread combo of your own design was responsible for your most memorable taste bud explosion.
Why is this? We want to be self-sufficient adults, able to make our own meals, but why does it taste so much darn better when someone else makes you that sandwich? Well don’t feel bad.
It’s science, baby!
In the last few years there has been research done to figure out why food is more delicious when others make it for you (apparently there was nothing more important to study). It has to do with the phycological concept of “pre-consumption”.
When making a sandwich, you are seeing all the ingredients, smelling the savory ham and tangy Dijon, and touching the spongy sourdough texture. All this stimulus constructs a sort of “mental sandwich” that you have already started to consume, telling your brain that you’ve been eating this sandwich the whole time you were making it. So, when you sit down to actually engage your teeth for mastication, it’s less satisfying because you’ve ruined your apatite on that darn “mental sandwich”!
When SOMEONE ELSE makes that sandwich for you, they are the ones eating that “mental sandwich”, not you. So when the sandwich conveniently appears before you, it’s a fresh, new, vibrant, and satisfying experience.
Just extrapolate the whole sandwich concept to the entirety of know cuisine. All things being equal, anything made for you will somehow taste better. And which the holidays right around the corner, aren’t you excited to eat all that food you didn’t make?
Check out this cool article that explores these concepts and offers tips to enhance your own cooking, just in case you don’t have a personal chef at your beck and call.