Until recently, with documentaries like “What the Health”, we were never really taught about food and never really learned how to be mindful about consuming it.
Sure, we were taught about the pyramid; the triangle with 4 groups: fats, dairy and protein, fruits and vegetables, and grains/bread. But, we weren’t taught “how”, “how” to eat. Historically, we have been told what to eat and what not to eat; however, no lessons on how to select and consume, ultimately contributing to obesity.
Mindfulness isn’t taught in schools/colleges/universities, therefore, applying it to food and eating is almost foreign to many. Many of us have a strong misconception about food and the role that food plays in our lives and in our health, which creates unhealthy habits.
Food is generally a substance used for pleasure instead of nourishment. We devour most things on our plate without being mindful and aware about what we are actually consuming.
In this article, I’ll look into what mindful eating is, its many benefits and how you start to eat mindfully.
Table of Contents
What is mindfulness — religion or practice?
Many times, mindfulness is associated with religion and meditation. Mindfulness may be considered “weird thinking” to some and just “weird” to others, when in fact, mindfulness is being taught in law practice, management/ leadership training, used to treat anxiety and bias, and a multitude of other areas.
Mindfulness is not a religion; rather, it is a state of active and open attention to the right now, this very moment, nothing else. It is the practice of observing your thoughts (looking at/seeing your thoughts), just observation, no judgment.
Often times, our minds are so active thinking about the past and the future, that we let right now pass us by, mindfulness is the practice of not letting life pass you by, it’s about living in the moment with no judgment.
How mindful eating reduces obesity
The State of Obesity reports that adult obesity in the United States has exceeded 35 percent in 5 states, 30 percent in 25 states, and 25 percent in 46 states in 2017.
With advances in technology and information readily available at our fingertips; this increase in obesity rates is frightening. The U.S National Library of Medicine reports that obesity contributes to 300,000 deaths per year.
Mindfulness can help with the reduction of obesity.
Being mindful about the food you eat will contribute to healthier habits, which contributes to weight loss. Various studies have been conducted on mindful eating and obesity. In each one of the studies, participants lost weight, and continued to lose weight during the follow-up phases. Participants report ongoing weight loss success because they embraced mindful eating in their daily lives.
Mindful eating is about eating mindfully. It is about being fully aware of what you are experiencing; your cravings and physical cues. Physical cues are your warning signs and help you identify when to stop eating.
When thinking physical cues and eating, just remember that you are paying attention to things like how full or not full you are while eating; being mindful and knowing when to stop, contributes to weight loss/management.
How mindfulness makes you healthier
Mindfulness also contributes to better health.
Harvard Health reports that mindfulness has been linked to improvements in patients with depression, stress, anxiety, and weight complications.
A meta-analysis of 39 studies conducted in 2010, by Hoffman et al., researched the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Researchers concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be helpful in altering affective and cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues.
Let’s take a look at the many benefits of mindfulness:
How to start eating mindfully
I’d love to start eating mindfully, but how?
Congratulations! Wanting to begin is half the battle!
Change is difficult to initiate and keep up with. See Lifehack article: The 6 Stages You Experience When You Try to Change Your Behaviors to learn about how to transform yourself and make changes that last.
Generally speaking, mindful eating includes the following:
- Eating slowly without distractions (television/noise).
- Paying attention to physical hunger cues and eating until you are satisfied and not beyond that.
- Knowing actual hunger triggers for eating.
- Using and embracing your senses: sight, smells, sounds, textures, and tastes.
- Finding ways to cope with the guilt associated with food.
- Eating for overall health and not just eating for pleasure.
- Paying attention to the effects food has on your feelings, emotions, and overall health.
- Enjoying and appreciating your food.
Slowing down and practicing mindfulness ensures that you pay attention.
Getting started means that you want to try and embrace change. It won’t work if you feel that it is an obligation. Your social environment is crucial, having a support system ensures higher chances of success.
Mindful eating will ensure that you savor your food and nourish the experience. Here are a few ways and a few tips to get you started:
1. Start slow and gradually make changes.
Try starting with one meal per day and then gradually increasing to 2 meals a day, then 3 meals a day.
2. Turn off the noise.
Eating in silence and away from distractions ensures that you can truly be mindful about what you are eating. It allows you to appreciate the time and effort that it took to prepare the meal that you are consuming.
3. Slow down when eating.
Eating slowly helps your brain communicate with your body. It takes about 15-20 minutes for your brain to tell your body that it is full.
4. Actually, chew and taste your food.
It may sound silly but, eating fast and not properly chewing your food is not good. It can contribute to complications in food digestion, bloating, and gas. Being aware and mindful of this when eating will help ensure a better digestive process.
5. Turn the senses on.
Try identifying ingredients and or spices with taste and smell. It’s a really good trick to being totally present in the moment.
6. Be thankful.
Being mindful, as mentioned before, ties into appreciation. Adopting the attitude of gratitude reminds us of how food sustains us.
What if your family and friends don’t understand your mindfulness?
Often times, when lifestyle changes are being made, family and friends don’t understand. Change is uncomfortable for most: so, when you are changing up the dynamic of the team, it may not be taken well.
Having a supportive social environment is crucial to a smoother transition. Try these tips when putting out the news about your journey towards mindful eating:
1. Communicate the importance.
Tell your friends and family why you want to embark on this journey. Let them know the type of support you need from them and why it is important for your journey.
2. Help them understand what mindfulness is.
Provide your support system with a tutorial on mindfulness and mindful eating. Help them see the positivity and the benefits associated with your decision.
3. Educate and spread awareness.
Though your family and friends may not embark on this journey with you, don’t assume that they don’t want to hear about it. Sharing information and experiences my help them transition. It will also ensure that they still feel like a part of your life.
4. Don’t be pushy, respect different views.
All things aren’t meant to be embraced by everyone. Though it would be great for the world to practice mindfulness and mindful eating, respecting different views and perspective is necessary. Find the balance between informing and being pushy.
5. Do something with your family and friends that relates to mindfulness.
Experience is always the best teacher. Show your friends and family what mindfulness is. It is important to show that you are growing; however, not away from them. Change is not only difficult for us but also our loved ones.
6. Join networking and social media groups.
Joining a community of likeminded people can make a huge difference for your transition and ongoing success. Search local groups and social media groups associated with mindfulness.
Summing it up
Mindfulness is a practice that can help transform many aspects of your life. Mindful eating is beneficial for reduction of obesity and obesity related illness, overall health including mental health.
Mindful eating will turn around a lot of unhealthy habits getting you closer to awareness for mindfulness in all that you do.
Mindfulness is the path to a conscious living; it is important to be conscious when eating because wellness is linked to everything.
Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com
|||^||HuffPost: The Surprising Benefits of Mindful Eating|
|||^||The State of Obesity: Obesity Report|
|||^||Psychological Issues (V Drapeau and S Sogg, Section Editors): Mindfulness Approaches and Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Weight Regain|
|||^||Think Live Be Positive: Mindfulness Meditation & Addiction|
|||^||Eating Mindfully: Mindful Eating|