Breathing, eating and sleeping are practices essential to life. Although physically, eating may just be about consuming enough food to continue your day-to-day activities, there are some profound benefits to being a more mindful eater.
What is mindful eating?
How many times have we been asked about what we ate recently, and are left dumbstruck, unable to form a response? After a long day at work, it can be easy to amass heaps of unhealthy snacks, switch off in front of the television and eat on autopilot.
Before you know it you’ve consumed twice your daily fat recommendation, your blood sugar is through the roof and a queasy night’s sleep is ahead of you.
This type of unconscious eating is not only detrimental to your physical wellbeing, but can also wreak havoc on your mental health. The lack of mindfulness and self-control associated with this behaviour can lead to various undesirable traits, such as emotional eating to cope with stress, body hate, and various health issues.
Instead of making food choices based on our body’s needs, our food choices are being influenced by marketing schemes and time-friendly fast food companies.
How to eat mindfully
As soon as unconscious eating habits are formed they can be quite difficult to overcome. Every time a behavioural pattern is repeated, it is imprinted in neural pathways which reinforce the behaviour.
In other words, the more you do it, the more you want to do it. For this reason, the best way to break bad habits is to replace them with good ones.
Pay attention to the food
Instead of eating in front of the television on the sofa, or at the office while doing work, practice eating in the kitchen or dining area where there are no distractions. Try eating in silence and pay attention to what it is you’re eating.
Spend some time before you start eating to appreciate the colours and smells of the food in front of you. Imagine the food’s journey from where it was grown and be grateful that you are able to consume it. When eating, savour the tastes and textures in your mouth. Try to eat the first few mouthfuls with your eyes closed to shift awareness within.
Ghrelin, a hormone produced in the lining of the stomach, is responsible for feelings of hunger in the body. Eating more slowly gives ghrelin more time to dissipate and subsequently make you feel less hungry.
When you first sit down at the table to start eating, spend a short amount of time to focus on your breathing and relax. Chew each mouthful of food around twice as much as normal. Studies have shown that increasing the number of chews before swallowing increases satiety.  After every bite, take a moment to scan your body and see how full you feel. Other techniques to eat more slowly include eating with the non-dominant hand, using smaller utensils to eat with, and allocating times to eat in, ensuring you aren’t rushed.
Mindful eating is about truly experiencing your food. Start and end every meal with the attention needed to appreciate food and the intention of caring for yourself.