Being in the moment, mindfulness, mindful practices – they have all received a bit of attention of late. We are starting to realise that our inability to focus on what we are doing at the time can contribute to a whole host of issues in relation to our mental health.
I long for the day when we recognise that it is not always cool to multi task. (Except if you are in a super boring meeting and then of course it’s totally ok to do something as well and probably then would be actually called a distraction….).
Important in mental health, mindfulness has a strong place in physical health as well. Particularly when it comes to eating and drinking.
Have you ever been watching an engrossing television show whilst eating dinner at the same time?
Have you found yourself suddenly finished your dinner with almost no recollection of eating? That’s what would be called mindLESS eating.
When you mindLESS eat you don’t really taste the flavours of the experience, often you don’t chew the food as many times as is best for digestion, and it is also really hard to recognise when you are actually full and don’t need to eat anymore.
MindLESS eating has been shown to result in frequent overconsumption of foods because we eat past the point of where we are full. Because our brains are distracted doing something else, we don’t tune into the signals that our body gives us in relation to being full and we end up eating more than we need to. We are eating out of our habits and not employing any conscious thought.
MindLESS eating is also where we eat when we are not really hungry. Emotional eating falls into this category. In emotional eating, we are eating because our brain is searching for a way to cope with an uncomfortable emotion.
Somewhere in our past our brain has set up a reward loop where eating has made us feel happy so when we are not happy, we have developed a habit to eat to try to feel better. Emotional eating deserves a blog all of its own, but at its core it is about eating when we are not hungry and employing mindLESS eating because we are eating out of habit.
MindFUL eating is all about awareness and being focused on the experience of eating.
MindFUL eating is not eating out of habit. It’s all about paying deliberate attention to what is going on inside of you and around you. It’s about eating without distractions like screens and books. Its about eating when you are hungry, chewing your food properly, paying attention to your body signals and being able to stop when you feel full.
You can see the theme here.
MindLESS eating is about eating from habit with no conscious thought attached. MindFUL eating is ALL about the conscious thought.
Potential to help with weight management
A 2018 review of Mindful approaches and weight loss, weight maintenance and weight regain published in Obesity Reports showed that all studies included in the review showed weight loss results when mindful eating strategies were employed. More than this though was the recognition that “the sustainability of these skills may be the most promising aspect of employing these strategies in weight management interventions”.
MindFUL eating practices are not all about weight loss though.
It is also the best way to understand the impact that food can have on your body. When you mindfully eat you can also start to understand what food will zap your energy, make you feel a bit queasy, calm you, irritate you, energise you. It helps you understand what the right foods are to help you body function at its absolute best.
When you haven’t eaten mindfully it can be a lot to suddenly dive into trying to eat every single meal like this.
Just start with the goal of one meal a day that you fully mindfully eat.
• Turn the screens off and put the paper or books away.
• Check in with yourself and make sure that you are hungry
• Smell the aroma of your food and observe the colours and textures on your plate
• Chew your food properly and put your utensils down between bites
• Think about the flavours that you can taste
• Stop before you have finished all the food on your plate. You should be satisfied but not overfull.
• After you have finished be aware of how your body feels
Try just doing this for one meal a day for three weeks and see how you feel. I would be amazed if you don’t come to some realisation about either the amount of food that you eat or how some food makes you feel.
And of course, if you need a hand, reach out.