Mindful Eating: Benefits Including the Do’s & Don’ts!

Are you always shocked as you scrape the bottom of the pick ‘n’ mix bag before the rolling credits whilst thinking to yourself “I’m still hungry”? Well, this is an example of mindless eating, a detrimental practice to your healthy eating goals! Instead, we should practice its exact opposite: Mindful eating.

Mindfulness may be considered more of a spiritual practice relating to meditation. Mindful eating derives from mindfulness and it has deep roots in Buddhism, stemming from the practice of mindful meditation. It can be defined as ‘maintaining an in-the-moment state of mind relating to the food and drink we consume, being completely present, and paying attention to all of the senses as we engage in eating or drinking.’ Read on for Mindful Eating: Benefits Including the Do’s & Don’ts!

Mindful eating has been depicted as a powerful psychological tool that can help you to manage your diet more effectively. However, it extends far beyond consumption by encouraging those who practice it to get involved with the entire process of creating a healthy, delicious meal, and understanding the origins of the food we consume. I have just one question before we move on, and if you can’t answer, then this article is for you. Can you remember absolutely everything that you consumed yesterday?

1. The Difference Between Mindless & Mindful Eating

One is the devil on your shoulder, goading you to give in to your temptations, the other is the angel, encouraging you to live in the present and be at one with yourself. Mindless and mindful eating are the complete opposites of each other and will make or break your path to a healthy lifestyle.

We’re all guilty of mindless eating. It’s virtually impossible to eradicate from our lives. The key is minimising mindlessness and recognising when we do tend to engage in it. Simply, mindless eating involves consuming food and drink without concentrating. Examples include; eating past the point of feeling full; eating out of emotion, ‘comfort eating’, or using food as a coping mechanism; eating at random times or in random places; and eating whilst multitasking.

Mindful eating takes more effort, particularly at the start, but the impact can be of considerable magnitude. It helps to develop a brand new outlook and relationship with food as well as bringing an array of health benefits with it. Practicing mindful eating involves; listening to your body’s signals; eating with others at set times; eating food that is nutritionally good for you; being in-the-moment when eating without distractions; thinking about where food comes from and all the processes it goes through to make it to your plate.

Want to go deeper? Fine. Have you ever wondered where food actually comes from? Can man create even a single grain of rice? So you see, we should be grateful for the food we eat and being mindful creates exactly that – the space and peace we need to be grateful for each piece of food that passes through our lips.

2. How to Be Mindful: Do’s & Don’ts

Mindful eating is a psychological skill that must be practiced and trained regularly to be effective. Unlike other skills, it’s pretty straight forward to develop as it mostly involves reverse-engineering mindless eating habits that are already in place. The key is staying present and not allowing yourself to slip into auto-pilot mode. Here are the do’s and don’ts:

  • Do connect with all of your senses during every mouthful and savour every bite.
  • Do eat slowly and take frequent breaks between mouthfuls, chewing your food properly.
  • Do consider how food makes you feel physically and mentally e.g. happy, energetic, guilty, rejuvenated, etc.
  • Do get involved with the process such as choosing and buying the food, preparation, and cooking.
  • Do eat at set times around a dinner table, with others when possible.
  • Do create a mindful kitchen by making healthy foods accessible e.g. fruit bowls, and unhealthy foods hard-to-reach.
  • Do try the raisin eating method – snack on healthy foods when hungry and you will begin to enjoy the taste more than simply relying on the raw will force of motivation to be healthy.
  • Don’t adhere to external distractions whilst eating such as television, emails, social media, smartphones, etc.
  • Don’t eat away from the dinner table. This usually occurs when we stand by the fridge or cupboards eating straight from the packet.
  • Don’t eat past the point of feeling full, just because there is food in front of you.
  • Don’t eat as an emotional response to make yourself happy or cope with stress.
  • Don’t give into moral licensing e.g. balancing good with bad.

3. Benefits Of Mindful Eating

How does mindful eating actually benefit us? For starters, it creates a positive relationship with food and reverses the negative associations you may have created, much like a counsellor. Slowing down and enjoying the moment of eating calms us and reduces stress, whilst physically, it aids digestion.

Trying to lose weight? This skill is powerful and helps you feel fuller, minimises binge eating episodes, and reduces overall calorie intake. All of this helps to manage your weight effectively and by reducing participation in mindless eating activities, you’ll begin to drop those excess pounds!

It’s not all about health though. Food is a great pleasure of life and mindful eating enables us to emotionally connect with the world of food more intensely than ever before. Fully immerse yourself and find pleasure in the moment whilst eating and drinking great food. Food is a complete world and it welcomes you in. You’ll discover new passions and hobbies like cooking, growing sustainable produce perhaps in your own garden, and who knows, even becoming a connoisseur of some sort!

Just like any skill, mindful eating takes practice and patience, and you’ll suffer some setbacks for sure. Just take one step at a time and don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes. Use tactics to force good habits e.g. use a teaspoon to eat your breakfast. One thing is for sure, this is an exciting time as food is one of the great pleasures of life, and you’re about to discover a delicious new world you never knew existed! By being intensely grateful for what you taste and eat, you’ll be more able to savour the flavour and heighten your sensory appreciation while adding extra quality and memorable experiences into your life – and who doesn’t want more of that?

Have you incorporated mindful eating into your lifestyle? How is it going? Let us know in the comments below, and join in the conversation on FacebookTwitter & InstagramIf you want further insights on this subject, check out Fern’s Mindful Eating: 3 Myths about Practising a ‘Mindful’ Lifestyle – BUSTED! 

Thomas Higgs

Tom is a 25 year-old health and fitness fanatic, obsessed with food, nutrition, training, and the psychology that it entails. As well as continuously improving his athletic performance in CrossFit, he loves creating content that helps to simplify important scientific health information and engages with everyone so that we can all be better equipped to look after ourselves properly. He has a background in competitive sport, including football and bodybuilding. Having studied Sports Psychology at University he has learned valuable psychological methods for optimum performance, which now gives him a very holistic approach to health & fitness.

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