Many of us eat on autopilot - eating what’s available at the ‘usual’ times without noticing if we’re hungry, when we’re full, if we’re enjoying the meal or not. This is mindless eating and can lead to overeating and a complete disregard of what are body wants and needs.
Mindful eating in the other hand, can help bring our bodies and minds back together. Here’s a few ways to start mind eating :
Let your body catch up to your brain
Slowing down is one of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need for nutrition. The body actually sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often unconsciously overeat.
Know your body’s personal hunger signals
Often we listen first to our minds, but like many mindfulness practices, we might discover more wisdom by tuning into our bodies first.
Rather than just eating when we get emotional signals, which may be different for each of us, be they stress, sadness, frustration, loneliness or even just boredom, we can listen to our bodies. Is your stomach growling, energy low, or feeling a little lightheaded? Too often, we eat when our mind tells us to, rather than our bodies. True mindful eating is actually listening deeply to our body’s signals for hunger.
Develop healthy eating environments
Another way that we eat mindlessly is by wandering around looking through cabinets, eating at random times and places, rather than just thinking proactively about our meals and snacks. This prevents us from developing healthy environmental cues about what and how much to eat, and wires our brains for new cues for eating that not always ideal. (do you really want to create a habit to eat every time you get in the car, or other situations?)
Instead, sit down (at a table!), putting food on a plate or bowl, not eating it out of the container, and using utensils not our hands. It also helps to eat with others, not only are you sharing and getting some healthy connection, but you also slow down and can enjoy the food and conversation more, and we take our cues from our dinner partner, not over or undereating out of emotion.
Eating for comfort v eating what our body wants
Ideslly we can find nourishing foods that are also satisfying and comforting. As we practice eating mindfully and listen to our bodies, we tend to notice that we fancy a greater variety of foods, and we are less inclined to binge on our comfort foods. Ultimately, we find many foods mentally and physically satisfying as opposed to just a few.
Consider the life cycle of your food
Unless you are a hunter-gatherer or sustenance farmer, we have all become ever more disconnected from our food in recent years. Many of us don’t even consider where a meal comes from beyond the supermarket packaging. This is a loss, because eating offers an incredible opportunity to connect us more deeply to the natural world, the elements and to each other.
When we pause to consider all of the people involved in the meal that has arrived on your plate, from the loved ones (and yourself) who prepared it, to those who stocked the shelves, to those who planted and harvested the raw ingredients, to those who supported them, it is hard to not feel both grateful and interconnected. Be mindful of the water, soil, and other elements that were part of its creation as you sit down to eat whatever you are eating.
As you consider everything that went into the meal, it becomes effortless to experience and express gratitude to all of the people who gave their time and effort, the elements of the universe that contributed their share. With just a little more mindfulness like this, we may begin to make wiser choices about sustainability and health in our food, not just for us but for the whole planet.
Multitasking and eating is a recipe for not being able to listen deeply to our body’s needs and wants.
We’ve all had the experience of going to the movies with our bag full of popcorn, and before the coming attractions are over, we are asking who ate all of our popcorn. When we are distracted, it becomes harder to listen to our body’s signals about food and other needs. With your next meal, try single-tasking and just eating, with no screens or distractions besides enjoying the company you are sharing a meal and conversation with.
So try to incorporate slowing down, listening to our bodies, doing one thing at a time, making even small rituals, and considering all that went into our meal on a more regular basis to bring mindfulness to our daily meals.