Keeping up with a modern, fast-paced lifestyle can leave little time for tuning into your needs. You’re constantly moving from one thing to the next, not paying attention to what your mind or body is truly craving. Practicing mindfulness can help you become aware of those needs. When mindfulness is applied to eating, it can help you recognise your patterns and behaviours, while bringing attention to bodily cues associated with hunger and fullness.
The body carries a lot of knowledge and information, so when you apply mindfulness to the eating experience, you can start to make conscious choices, instead of falling into automatic—and oftentimes emotion-driven—behaviours. Once you become aware of these habits, you’re better equipped to change your actions.
With some basic guidelines in place, try putting mindful eating into practice. Here are some tips to get you started.
Eat slowly and with awareness
Eating doesn’t have to be a race. Taking time to savour and enjoy our food is one of the healthiest things we can do. You are more likely to notice when you are full, you’ll chew your food more and hence digest it more easily, and you’ll probably find yourself noticing flavours you might otherwise have missed. My top tip to help you slow down is to put your fork down between bites, this will encourage you to chew and see each mouthful individually rather than the bowl or plate as a whole.
Eliminate distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone
I’m not one for eating in silence but I must have picked up a thing or two from my family meal times when Mum would turn off the TV and encourage us to enjoy each others company and share our daily experiences. Our daily lives are full of distractions and electronic-free zones are now rare but by disconnecting from the outside world and bringing focus to our body and food we limit the potential for stress to impact on our digestion and honour the food which we have chosen to nourish ourselves with. My tip here is to turn your phone onto silent and leave it outside of the room you are eating in so you won't be tempted to pick it up and distract yourself from your meal.
Stop eating when you're full
When the stomach is full, it can take from 20 minutes to a half hour for the brain to know which is why we can sometimes unconsciously overeat. The best way to not over eat is to follow tip number one and eat slowly. This gives your body a chance to catch up to your brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount; leaving enough room in our stomach for the food we have eaten to be churned with the digestive juices. You will get to know your body and decipher the right amount of food for your stomach by following these mindful eating practices but in the beginning I recommend serving yourself a half portion. Eat this portion slowly and then allow 20 minutes before deciding how much more you would like to eat. In this way you will be able to clearly assess what your body needs and avoid over-burdening your body making digestion uncomfortable.
Consider the life cycle of your food
Sadly, many of us don’t consider where a meal comes from beyond the supermarket packaging. To me this is a real shame and a loss in our culture, because eating offers an incredible opportunity to connect us more deeply to the natural world, the elements around us. When we pause to consider all of the people involved in the meal that has arrived on our 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 connected to its life cycle. 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 and the elements of the universe that contributed their share also.