What Is Mindful Eating and Why Is It So Important?
No time to read? Listen here.
Mindful eating is a way to nourish your body consiously by paying attention to all of the senses, to the feelings in your body. Mindful eating is not a diet, it doesn’t count calories, fat, protein or carbonhydrates, it’s not judgemental, there’s no guilt included. The purpose of mindful eating is not to lose weight or gain muscles – the purpose is to become more aware again of what we eat, when we eat, how we eat, the amount we eat. Mindful eating is not only eating slowly and without distraction, it is eating with the right intentsion, giving the body what it deserves, what it needs, and enjoying and appreciating the food we take in and the effects it has on the body. (1,2)
Mindless Eating Habits and the Problems Which Comes Along With It...
We live in a world, where food is always available in abundance (if we’re lucky). Our society is more and more cultivating a love-hate relationship with food, some are consuming whatever comes in their way, without even thinking about the outcome and the effects in the body and others are dividing the food in good or bad, in a sometimes very judmental way. In both cases, guilt always comes along with it. We take more attention on the latest diet-trends, than on the food and its value itself. We get distraceted by so many things. (2)
Do you find yourself in one of these situations of eating habits?
– TV and mobile phone: I prepare myself something to eat, take my time and sit down still thinking: “I’m very mindful today”. I take the first bite and during I’m chewing, I grab my phone and check my insta feed or answer some whatsapp messages, because they are so improtant, that they cannot wait till later. Another classic situation: Pizza and a movie – no more words needed.
– Reading a book, newspaper, or magazin: I enjoy my breakfast in the morning, with a nice cup of coffee and the newspaper – getting all emotional because of the latest covid-19 regulation news.
– Talking: We have friends over for dinner, very interesting conversations, a lot of laughers, somtimes even emotional conversations. I have a coffee date with my friend, we are enjoying coffee, tea and cookies – and without even noticing one cookie has become four, plus a cake.
– Snacking, eating in standing or while walking: I walk through the kitchen, not even hungry, but oh, there’s an apple, I could eat an apple?! While eating the apple I walk through the house. Another classic: the curious look into the fridge, deep in the inside I now, that the fridge will look the same like two hours ago, but who knows, maybe there is something more interesting now?
– Eating stressed: I wake up in the morning, super motivated for my morning run – I get home and realize, there is only little time left before I have to leave the house. So now breakfast has to be a quick bite, or even a breakfast to go.
The outcome of mindless eating habits are showing their effects:
For some people these eating habits doesn’t look so bad – what’s wrong with reading a book while eating? Or having conversations?
Well, the most common outcome of all of this mindless eating habits is overeating. We miss the point, where the hunger (if there even has been hunger) is stilled. We don’t listen to the body and it’s signs that we had enough. The focus is somewhere else and suddenly we don’t even realize how much we ate. The outcome of overeating is obviously overweight up to obesety.
When it comes to stressful eating situations, we start to chew really fast and little – no wonder that so many people complain about digestive problems, like feeling bloaded.
But one major effect, which a lot of us don’t even recognize: we cultivate emotional eating by getting emotional of the conversations we are having, by the news we are reading, by bringing stress and feelings on the table. This is why it is so important to be more mindful about our eating habits, to be more in the moment, to be more focused on the actual act of nourishing the body.
Whenever you are wandering around in the kitchen “surching for something” ask yourself first: how are you feeling, what are you really searching for? Is there a deeper feeling behind it? Dig into it.
Whenever you catch yourself having dinner, while watching the news about all the bad things happening in the world – check how you are changeing your eating behaviour regarding to the emotions (some of us lose the apetite, others might start binging chocolate).
If we like to eat mindful, the process of eating, of nourishing the body, needs to get our full attention, all of our focus – like in meditation. As long as there is something else around, we will never be able to provide this full attention. Who ever did a Vipassana or any other silent retreat already, problably knows the beauty of eating mindful. I remember the first meal in my first silent retreat. I first thought – this is so weird, we are all sitting so close to each other, but its so silent. But by time I experienced the beauty of it, the beauty of giving my food and my body the attention and the appreciation it needs. I’m not saying we should always be alone while eating. I also do appreciate the company and the social part of enjoying a meal together, but I invite you to give it a try – maybe take 2 meals out of 3, where you practice mindful eating.
Easy Ways To Practice Mindful Eating
Here are some easy tips and tricks to cultivate mindful eating in life.
1. Ask yoursefl before: Am I hungry right now? Why do I want to eat now?
2. Do I have time to eat? I sit down and I take the time.
3. I focus on my food and I put away the phone, the laptop, the book and I turn off the TV.
4. I prepare one beautiful plate, I look at my food and I see all the beautiful colours.
5. I smell my food and I notice all the different smells.
6. I chew and I notice all the different tastes of the food in my mouth.
7. I put down the forc or the spoon when my mouth is full and I only take it up again, when my mouth is empty.
8. I eat until I’m full and statisfied.
9. I notice the effects of the food in my body. I notice the feeling, the emotions in my body.
10. I am grateful for my food, I honor and appreciate my food.
Eat with all of your senses and in consciousness – Enjoy your meal.
(1): Minduful Eating: The Art Of Presence While You Eat, Joseph B. Nelson, Diabetes Spectr. 2017 Aug; 30(3): 171–174.
(2): https://amihungry.com/how-can-mindful-eating-help-me, 24.02.2021