This is a guest post by nutrition student Naomi Oh. Naomi is a 2nd year nutrition student from Vancouver, Canada and is studying to become a dietitian. She is passionate about health promotion and enjoys reading health blogs/articles, books, as well as spending time doing creative projects and discovering new places in her city.
A Guide to Mindful Eating
What is mindful eating?
The practice of mindfulness is to be fully present and aware of the moment you are experiencing. Mindful eating involves concentrating on the process of eating and enjoying the sensations of food, such that we become aware of our body’s hunger and satiety cues. Mindful eating guides us to eat with joy while nourishing our bodies with energy. Instead of worrying about factors such as weight, we can learn to trust our bodies to tell us when and what to eat in order to feel our best. Research shows that mindful eating helps with weight management and the development of healthy, maintainable eating habits.
Mindful eating helps us move away from:
- Feeling guilty
- Dieting or imposing restrictions on certain foods
- Keeping track of calories
- Binge eating
- Concerned with weight or appearance
- ‘Perfect’ healthy eating
Why should you eat mindfully?
1. It promotes a healthy relationship with food.
Individuals who practice mindful eating are reported to feel happier with their food choices and are associated less with unhealthy eating behaviors.
2. It helps us make long-term improvements in our health.
In a study that examined chronic dieting, it was found that group members learning about an intuitive eating model were able to make long-term improvements, while the dieting group members lost weight initially, but regained it later on.
3. Improves our psychological well-being.
Self-compassion is a type of emotion regulation that is linked with higher levels of intuitive eating and reduced disordered eating in women.
Getting into the ‘Mindset’ of Mindful Eating:
10 Tips to Eat Mindfully
1. Enjoy and indulge
Use all five senses as you take a moment when you bite into your food to savor the flavors, the smells, and its textures. Bring out your inner ‘foodie’ and appreciate the beautiful colors and presentation of your food.
2. Slow down
Sit down, take your time, and chew your food slowly. Organize your day and manage your time to ensure that you have an established meal time, without feeling rushed. If you don’t have the time to eat every meal mindfully, start off by choosing one or two meals a week to eat mindfully.
3. Prepare your meals
Try to plan your meals in advanced and cook your own meals using real ingredients. Be involved with your food every step of the way, from purchasing the ingredients at the grocery store, to preparing and cooking it. Even the simple act of slicing and stirring can feel soothing. The result will be a delicious meal for you to sit down and enjoy.
4. Find the right environment
Bring yourself into an environment where you feel comfortable, happy, and relaxed. Remove yourself from a stressful atmosphere and clear your mind. If you work in an office, take your lunch outside on a sunny day with a co-worker. If you are a student, find your favorite spot on campus.
5. Focus on your food
Remove any distractions such as T.V., any electronics, and work. Clear your ‘meal space’ and remove any clutter. This is not the time for multi-tasking! This is your time to enjoy your meal.
6. Be aware of your body’s needs
Throughout the day, be aware of your energy levels and have a snack ready for when you are feeling hungry. Eating slowly is especially important in recognizing when you start to feel full and should stop eating.
7. Treat yourself
Make sure to eat nutrient dense foods often but also allow yourself to enjoy those extra special treats. Remember that eating mindfully does not mean ‘perfect’ eating.
8. Listen to your body
You do not have to follow a certain type of diet or way of eating (vegetarianism, paleo, gluten-free, etc) to be healthy. Identify the foods that make you feel energized and happy and stick with them! By no means is there a ‘correct’ way of eating.
9. Concentrate on the experience.
Mindful eating is a process. Although it is beneficial to have goals, remember that taking care of your health is a journey. Forget about the number on the scale or the size of your clothing and be as present as possible in the experience of eating your meals and nourishing yourself.
10. Love yourself
Before you eat, clear your mind and take a moment to be grateful. Love your body, be proud of your accomplishments and be kind to yourself!
What is your favorite tip to eat mindfully?
If you want to dig into a daily mindful eating tip to help you change your relationship with food, check out my 30-Day Mindful Eating Challenge.