Do you watch television or talk to a loved one over text while you eat?
Time and again, cognitive science has proved that the human mind is incapable of performing two or more tasks at once. But, living in today’s modern, fast-paced world, we barely notice when we’re task-switching. This can impact our appetite and digestion by not signaling when we’re full, causing us to overeat.
Fortunately, we can free ourselves from unhealthy eating habits and increase our awareness about food with mindful eating strategies. Learn how they can help here.
But First, What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is a powerful exercise that’s founded on mindfulness—a secular practice of meditation that can help maintain “a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”
When we focus on the whys and hows of eating, we tune in to our bodily sensations, engage our senses, and take stock of our eating habits. This replaces the automatic with the conscious, reducing binge eating and helping us make food choices that align with our dietary needs while controling our eating habits.
7 Benefits of Mindful Eating
Mindful eating has a plethora of benefits, the primary among them being:
#1 Better Relationship With Food
Mindful eating gives us an opportunity to dive deeper into flavors, textures, and aromas, recognize patterns that trigger emotional eating, and take action to change our eating habits and develop a more positive relationship with food.
Plus, by helping us pause in moments of stress and indulge in complete sensory pleasure, it can stabilize our feelings and nourish happiness.
#2 Conscious Attention To Diet
A 2013 article suggests that adopting a more mindful eating approach could aid weight loss (or help maintain your present weight) without requiring us to measure our food through calorie counting and other methods.
This is because it increases our conscious awareness of our eating experience so we can choose what and how much we consume.
#3 Food Tastes Better
Overindulgence isn’t the only downside to eating while watching our favorite soap operas or catching up on news. Eating while distracted could also make our food’s flavors less intense, minimizing our enjoyment of it.
#4 Healthier Eating
An article in ScienceDirect found a positive relationship between mindfulness and healthier eating across four studies. According to WHO, mindful eating encourages healthy eating and reduced calorie consumption. This can protect us against many chronic noncommunicable diseases.
#5 Improved Digestion
Stress can contribute to digestive issues by activating the sympathetic nervous system, which causes adjustments in the cardiovascular system as part of its fight-or-flight response. To prepare our bodies for imminent danger, it slows down digestion to conserve energy for survival.
This can lead to a stomach upset. In extreme cases, it can cause irritable bowel syndrome.
Meanwhile, a 2019 review revealed that mindful eating can help regulate the stress response and promote homeostasis—both helpful for rest and digestion. It also aligns the body’s CPDR (cephalic phase digestive response) system, which prompts our neural responses by helping us salivate and secrete gastric juices.
#6 Less Overeating
When we practice mindful eating, we are fully present in the moment. We’re more likely to notice internal and external cues of hunger and satiety and focus on the complete sensory experience. By slowing down, we give our body’s satiety signals time to work and let us know when we’re full.
Moreover, a 2014 review showed that it can minimize emotional and binge eating. When we eat less, we live longer. Inflammation levels in our bodies drop and the negative effects of aging cells are less drastic.
#7 Stress Reduction
When we’re under stress, our adrenal glands release cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol increases our appetites and the motivation to eat. We’re more likely to eat more fat and sugar when we eat quickly since we don’t notice what’s on our plate. That’s easily a recipe for weight gain!
According to a 2016 article, mindfulness-based interventions might have a beneficial effect on salivary cortisol secretion among healthy adults. This could be because mindful eating nurtures PSNS dominance which is associated with reduced stress.
Tips for Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is an art and can take time to master. Here are some tips to help you harness its benefits:
Eat Without Distractions
Find a quiet place that allows you to honor the food and the process it took to bring it to your table. Keep your phone out of sight and your TV switched off. Create a sanctuary where your food can take center stage.
Start With Small Portions
There is a time to “go big or go home,” but this isn’t one of them. Moderate your serving size so you don’t feel compelled to finish everything on your plate. This could be problematic if you’re trying to build muscle, so consider eating frequently instead of loading up with food.
Take Small Bites
Consciously check in with your senses to determine your reaction to the food. Chew thoroughly and slowly. Don’t rush and give it your full attention to enjoy the complete sensory experience of eating.
Schedule Your Meals
Instead of having long stretches between meals, put together a daily food plan with meals every 3 to 4 hours. This will also keep you on track with your diet plan, helping you reach your goals faster.
Most importantly, pay attention to how hungry or full you feel. Observe how the food affects you. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your consciousness to curb your problematic eating habits.
Mindful Eating: The Way to a Healthier and Better Body
Mindful eating can heighten your appreciation for food, allowing you to fully enjoy and savor the experience. Be prepared to put in the time and effort to make it part of your everyday eating habits. With regular practice, it can pave the way for healthier eating and encourage you to make more conscious decisions about what you put inside your body.