Sep 09, 2017

PHOTO CREDIT:Mc Jefferson Agloro

Do you remember the last time you paid attention to what you were eating? In today’s fast-paced world, we often find ourselves holding a sandwich in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. Other meals are consumed in front of a screen.

Unfortunately, only a few people make food the centre of their attention, indicating that it is not only what we eat, but also how we eat that is taxing our health.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is derived from the ancient practice of mindfulness, where one is completely present while eating. Mindful eating is simply paying attention to how and what you’re eating and your body cues. It is eliminating all distractions and paying attention to your hunger, your fullness and how you feel in general.

Mindful eating is not a diet. There are no numbers, menus or food restrictions involved. It is simply a mindset that slows you down and helps you fully enjoy your food.

Instinctively, mindful eating may sound like a cure for overeating. It controls your portion sizes, helps you eat slowly and eliminates negative, unconscious food habits such as eating while scrolling through your social media feed.

The good news is that mindful eating can help a number of food-related issues. Over the past couple of decades, scientists have found that mindful eating can help you lose weight, curb overeating and binge eating, manage chronic eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, improve symptoms of type-2 diabetes and diminish negative thoughts associated with food (such as guilt). 

Benefits of Mindful Eating

Whether your diet is highly restrictive or you’re overeating during your meals, it’s likely that you aren’t keeping a tab on your hunger, satiety and the nourishment your body needs.

Here’s how mindful eating can help anybody:

1.    Mindfulness prevents overconsumption

Some of us eat even when we are not hungry. For example, we eat when we are stressed, sad or bored or we are subconsciously reacting to external cues such as the sight or smell of delicious food. We buy popcorn at the movie theatre or a drink with a meal only for habitual reasons. You may not be hungry or your body may not be asking for a certain food, but you continue to consume anyway.

Start by paying attention to why you eat. When it comes to food, being mindful is about nourishing your body, not just responding to hunger.

2.    It helps you lose weight

An increasing number of people are beginning to understand that weight loss programs do not work in the long-term. Studies show that around 85% of obese people who lose weight either gain the weight back or exceed their initial weight within just a few years [6].

Emotional eating, external eating, binge eating and responding to cravings have been linked with weight gain and regain even after successful weight loss.

A plethora of studies indicate that eating mindfully can help you overcome harmful eating behaviours, reduce stress and lose weight in the process.

Instead of being restrictive with your diet, simply replacing negative feelings associated with food with improved self-control, self-awareness and positive emotions while eating can make a massive difference to your weight and overall health.

3.    It helps prevent or manage type-2 diabetes

According to one study, individuals with type-2 diabetes are more likely to eat faster than others. Many studies report that eating fast is one of the main contributors to weight gain and this may also be linked to type-2 diabetes.

If you’re eating too fast, consider applying mindfulness to one or two meals to begin with. Focus on how you eat, chew slowly and pay attention to all the ingredients on your plate. Pretend you’re a food critic and feel all the flavours in your mouth. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you feel full, without eating the same amount you are used to.

4.    It builds trust in you

Most of us feel that we simply cannot trust ourselves around certain foods, such as chips, cake or ice cream. Maybe you’ve given into your cravings too many times and you don’t trust yourself to eat a regular portion of a certain food item anymore.

Mindful eating helps you tune into your innate wisdom, allowing you trust yourself to make the correct decisions regarding the food you eat and the portion sizes.

5.    It helps your body absorb more nutrients

Adding foods that promote slower consumption can help your body take its time while absorbing nutrients. Choosing slow digesting nutrients such as protein and fibre and food with high water content such as crunchy fruits and vegetables can help you feel fuller and more satiated faster.

Sipping on some green tea, soup or bone broth along with your protein and fibre packed meal, such as a chicken salad whole meal sandwich can help your body assimilate the nutrients in your meal more efficiently.

6.    It makes meal times more enjoyable

Mindful eating cannot make kale taste like cake, but it can help you take a step back and enjoy each morsel without stress and hurry.

Spending a few moments to sit down, feel the textures, colours and flavours of your food and reflecting on the work that was put into bringing your meal to your plate is perhaps one of the best bonuses that come with mindful eating. It’s an act of self-love that most of us easily skimp on.

Turn off your TV, turn on some relaxing music, keep your phone aside, light that scented candle and sing and dance while you cook and set the table. Enjoying the experience of cooking can set the mood for an incredible meal afterwards.

After giving mindful eating a go, here are 6 healthy food hacks everyone should try.

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