What is Mindful Eating?
1st June 2022
Mindful Eating is applying the concept of ‘Paying attention in a Particular way, on Purpose, in the Present moment, and non-judgementally, to eating. The goal is to be accepting of your behaviour around food, whatever that might be. Food is often a challenging thing to manage. In the same way that for some, alcohol or cigarettes can prove tricky, food may be tricky for you. But learning how to behave more mindfully around food can help us get on top of our food issues. By focusing on the relationship we have with food, and working on repositioning it in our lives, we feel more in control, reducing anxiety we have around food and improving well-being.
Mindful eating and weight loss
Although not intended as a weight loss tool, mindful eating is now added to many weight management interventions. The idea is that by being more aware of how we eat, the experience of eating, and the reasons we might eat, we learn about and become more accepting of ourselves and our relationship to food. We can then work on improving that relationship by focusing on the experience and enjoyment of eating. And so, we improve our well-being.
How do we eat mindfully?
When eating mindfully we are intentionally paying attention to food, without judgement. We use our five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. We look, we smell, we touch with our fingers and mouth, taste with our tongues, and we listen. The intention is to tune into the body. And to tune in without conflict in our heads, rather being okay with whatever we are having. The idea of being non-judgemental is to initiate curiosity about our eating behaviours. We want to better understand thoughts and cues that might guide food choices. We are trying to ‘feel’ during a meal, fully savouring food in the present moment.
Explore the environment before, during and after eating
So we use our 5 senses with purpose during all phases of the eating experience ie before, during and after eating. We pay attention not only to the food but also the environment in which we find ourselves. Think of both the internal and external environment
Internal environment: body, thoughts, emotions
External environment: context of the eating experience
Paying attention in this way affects what is going on in many ways:
Physically: – slowing down the pace of eating, savouring every mouthful and using the 5 senses allows the body to experience the food
Physiologically: – the stomach and the brain are given opportunity to communicate affecting appetite and stress hormones, and optimising the process of digestion by allowing the body to focus on the task in hand allowing you to learn awareness of differences in feelings of fulness and hunger
Psychologically: – getting back in touch with hunger and fullness cues helps us to learn awareness of differences in feelings of fulness and hunger, we learn to tune into the needs of the body, lending feelings of being more in control of our food based behaviours
How to use mindful eating
Mindful eating improves well-being and also improves body-satisfaction. But mindful eating needs to be used as a complement to other strategies to effect change, rather than alone. To nourish the body and mind we still need to learn what foods are healthy and in what amounts. We also need to learn to adopt behavioural strategies to employ better choices.
If you would like help to adopt mindful eating in your life, please get in touch.