What You Need to Know About Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

Mindfulness isn’t a new concept by any means, but it’s one that has picked up in popularity over the last several years. The problem is, many of us don’t actually know what mindfulness is, or how to apply it to our eating habits.

It’s hard to practice something you don’t understand, so let’s take a look at what mindful eating is, its benefits, and most importantly, how you can practice mindful eating as part of your daily life.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a form of meditation which encourages you to be aware of, and present with, experiences by focusing on:

  • Physical sensations
  • Your emotions
  • Your thoughts, either persistent or fleeting

Practicing mindful eating is all about using mindful tools to achieve a state of full consciousness, or awareness, during your eating experiences, from cravings through to washing your dishes.

Benefits of mindful eating

Mindful eating isn’t just a practice that has benefits for your diet and eating habits, it has also proven to be beneficial for your overall lifestyle and welling. Mindful eating can be used to assist you in:

  • Managing eating disorders and various food related behaviours
  • Reducing depression
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Improving mood
  • Improving emotional regulation

When practicing mindful eating, you will find you make more intentional, healthy, and satisfying food choices as part of your everyday life. But how does mindful eating achieve all of this?

1. It helps you recognise when you’re full

Instead of eating until you are uncomfortably full, mindful eating helps you to recognise when you are satisfied and stop eating. This can help you to maintain a healthy weight and improve your overall health.

2. It helps you enjoy your food more

When you are eating mindfully, you are paying attention to the flavour, texture, and smell of your food. This can help you to savour and appreciate your food, instead of just mindlessly snacking.

3. It helps reduce stress and anxiety

Eating mindfully can help to reduce stress levels, because it encourages you to be present in the moment and focus on your food. It also helps to reduce anxiety, because it allows you to take the time to enjoy your food.

4. It helps you identify unhealthy eating habits

When you are mindful of your eating habits, you can start to recognise patterns in your eating that may not be healthy. This can help you to make changes to your eating habits to improve your health.

How to practice mindful eating

The brilliant thing about practicing mindful eating is you don’t need an elaborate set up to get started, in fact, you don’t need any tools at all except your mind to get going. Here’s how to start your mindful eating journey at your next mealtime.

1.Plan your meals and snacks

Eating mindfully starts with how you plan and prepare your family meals. Planning what you are going to eat as main meals and snacks is a key focus for the mindful eater. This allows you to mindfully enter the supermarket, list in hand, to shop for what you need for the week. Having a well-prepared plan and grocery list will help you stay aware of your needs as you walk around the shop, making you much less likely to stray and purchase something you didn’t intend to.

2. Share your mindful meal with others

Sharing a meal is a hidden weapon when it comes to eating more mindfully. Not only is connection with others good for the soul, but the conversation requires us to be present in the moment. As an added bonus, your brain takes cues from those you are eating with, which can cause a greater sense of appreciation for the food you are eating, as well as a reduction in how fast you are consuming it. If eating as a family is new to you, it’s a good idea to:

    • Schedule half an hour where everyone can dedicate their time to being together
    • Put phones and other devices away
    • Discuss as a family what the expectations at the table are around politeness and respect – for example, is it ok to leave the table to use the bathroom?

3. Eat slowly and deliberately

Your mind and body can often be on different wavelengths when it comes to eating. On average, it takes about 20 minutes for your body to listen to your brain saying that you’re full and satiated. That’s a long time when you’re eating, and this can lead to unconsciously overeating. But if you slow down, you can give your body a chance to catch up with your brain and hear the signals. Some simple ways to slow down when eating include:

    • Sitting down to eat
    • Chewing your food well
    • Putting your fork down between each bite

4.Listen to your body

When eating mindfully, you are encouraged to pay attention to how your food:

    • Looks
    • Tastes
    • Smells
    • Feels

But you should also be focusing on any physical or emotional sensations that arise before, during or after your meal or snack. This includes being aware of how full or satisfied you are feeling throughout your meal. Listening to your body's signals can help you better regulate your eating and make healthier choices about when you have had enough. You won’t always get it perfectly right but as you practice, you will get better at recognising when it is time to stop and when you are still genuinely hungry.

If you want to learn more about the practice of mindful eating, Dr Susan Albers provides a range of strategies to help start you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Remember, as with anything, you get better at what you practice. As you begin your mindful journey, it’s important to be patient with yourself and your family, acknowledging all the achievements you have made big or small along the way.

Need help to develop your mindful eating practice?

At Childhood Obesity Prevention, we understand how challenging it can be to change your lifestyle alone. We can create a plan to help you and your family reach your health and wellbeing goals and lead the lifestyle you desire. We have a range of support options available to suit your family, from self-guiding your journey to healthier habits with our book Ride to Life, through to personal consultations.