6 Steps Towards Mindful Eating

With so much focus on WHAT we are eating at the moment, there is very little attention on HOW we are eating.

Mindful, or intuitive eating, is eating with intention and attention.  If you are overeating or being overly restrictive with your food, then it’s likely that you have lost track of your hunger and also satiation.

This broken link between your body and mind needs to be healed.

Eating is a natural, healthy and pleasurable activity when you are eating to satisfy hunger and meet your needs for nourishment and enjoyment.

The art of mindfulness can transform our struggles with food — and renew our sense of pleasure, appreciation and satisfaction with eating.

Jan Bays – paediatrician and Zen teacher.

So how can you bring mindful eating into your daily life? Below are 6 easy steps to take to towards mindful eating.

1.  Cook mindfully

Take the time to plan , prepare and cook your food. Cooking with the intention of feeding yourself and your family food that will nourish them This is particularly helpful when you are trying to prepare food at ‘arsenic hour’ and are being bombarded with questions and “I’m hungry!”.

Take a moment to teach your children to engage their senses in the kitchen while you are preparing the food. This can be as simple as giving them a chance to try one of the vegetables you have chopped up while you are coking. This Involves them in the process and reminds them to be mindful too.

When you are mindful, it is easier to stay calm and focussed on the task at hand. This is also helpful when sitting down to eat with your children and they don’t like what has been put in front of them. Remind yourself that you have cooked food to nourish them – be patient and keep trying.

2.  Tune into your body

Pay attention to your body before, during and after you eat. Are you really hungry? Or could you be thirsty, bored or stressed?

When you do eat, take the time to chew your food well. Chew each mouthful for at least 12-20 times before swallowing. Not only will this help your digestive processes, but it will help to prevent over eating.

Again, tune into your senses – how does the food look, smell and taste with each mouthful?

Put down your fork or spoon between mouthfuls and tune in to your level of hunger to notice if you are still eating despite feeling full.

Remind your children to do the same.

3.  Be mindful of your mood.

Mindful eating can create that present moment experience for us rather than rushing through a meal to get to work on time, or to get the kids into bed. Slow down and tune in to how you feel.

it can be easy to over eat or eat food that doesn’t make you feel great when you are stressed, unhappy or bored.

Avoid multitasking while you eat – eating while working, watching TV or driving significantly increases the risk of over eating. Taking a break to have something to eat is good for your mind and body.

4.  Practise gratitude.

It can be easy to get caught up in negative emotions like guilt, resentment or regret which can cause us to overeat and feel awful afterwards. This can lead to a continuous negative cycle of binge – guilt – purge.

Gratitude blocks negative emotions and magnifies positive ones. This helps us to appreciate the value of something. By being grateful for the food we are about to eat, and the work that went into getting that food onto our plate, we extract more benefits from it and we are less likely to take it for granted.

Encourage your children to go around the table and say what part of the meal they are most grateful for – the farmers for growing the carrots, the bees for pollinating the flowers, the grocer for making it easy for us to buy the food close to home…. Not only will engage them in positive conversation around food, it will also teach them to be more mindful of the foods they choose to eat when they are not at home.

5.  Share food with the people you love.

Food is profoundly social and as such, can be greatly enjoyed when shared with those you love.

Food is also an occasion for sharing as well as for giving – whether it be giving food to your children, baking a gift for a friend or preparing a meal for a stranger in need.

For families, keep week night meals simple as stressing about the food may sabotage what you really want, which is connection with your family. This will have far more long term benefits than the actual food itself.

6.  Eat without judgement.

Be mindful of your self talk. Do you make harsh judgements of yourself around food? For example “I shouldn’t eat that, I’m so fat already” or “I don’t deserve to be happy, I’ll just eat this chocolate/burger/pizza”

Negative thoughts can trigger overeating or stop you from adequately feeding your hunger.

Remove the words “good” & “bad” and “should” & “shouldn’t” from your vocabulary when it comes to food. Instead, replace this with “I choose”. When you make food choices, do it with an awareness of why. If you feel crappy and want to eat chocolate, then acknowledge that, eat some chocolate, and move on.

By removing the judgemental language from our own and others food choices, it removes the stress around eating.

Remember: A thought is just a thought, not a fact.