We’re all busy! Multitasking is at an all time high at the moment. Multitasking while we eat has become a common practice over the last decade. Watching T.V, completing household jobs, scrolling through social media or working at your desk are all very common ways to pass time while eating a meal. This can have some negative consequences, including less satisfaction with meals, little or no awareness of what you’re eating and the tendency to overeat as a result.
Mindfulness is a term we have heard quite a lot of the last few years and it can be directly translated to eating a meal. Mindful eating uses the act of ‘mindfulness’ or being present while you eat. It’s involves using all senses to understand the responses each of these have to the food you’re eating.
There have been several benefits linked to mindful eating:
1. Understanding when to stop eating
Eating without distractions allows us to fully focus on eating a meal, slow down and enjoy each mouthful. When we do this, we can start to identify our hunger and fullness cues. It can takes 15 minutes for our stomachs to register that we are full, so slowing down and eating mindfully can allow the time for your body to tell you you’ve had enough.
2. Weight loss
This directly leads on from identifying when we are full. If we understand our bodies and listen for cues while mindfully eating, we are far more likely to stop eating when we think we are approaching being full. This cuts out the temptation to go for second or third servings at mealtimes.
3. Improved digestion
Stopping and enjoying our meals means that we aren’t running around madly and shoving mouthfuls of food down our throat. When we slow down and take the time to enjoy a meal, our stress levels can decrease. This has a positive affect on our digestion, particularly with conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
4. Stress reduction
Mindful practices have shown to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol. The act of slowing down and being present while eating can do exactly the same thing. By practicing this regularly, you’re not only going to enjoy your food more, but your body has the opportunity to enter a relaxed state throughout the process.
5. Increased satisfaction with food
Rather than standing by the fridge and shovelling food into our mouths, mindful eating encourages us to sit down and take notice of the flavours, smells, textures, colours of our food and to eat slowly. This can result in a very satisfying experience and an appreciation for healthy and fresh foods that we sit down to eat.
It takes time to learn and understand the benefits that come with mindful eating.
Next time you’re having a meal follow the steps below:
- Take away any distractions (eg. IPhone, social media, T.V).
- Sit down in a quiet and relaxing place
- Allow at least 20 minutes to eat your meal
- Start with a small portion, you can always add more after the 20 mins
- Chew slowly and appreciate your food
- Check in with your senses – colour, smell, texture, flavour, temperature
- Check in with your hunger and try to identify when you’re body has had enough
It may take time to get the hang of mindful eating and the benefits that arise as a result. Be patient with it and try to incorporate mindful eating to at least one meal a day when starting out. As you become more familiar, you can increase this. Over time, you’ll notice the benefits of mindful eating and advantages to your overall wellbeing as well.