Many people in the western world have a complicated relationship with food. Millions of people are overweight or obese, which puts them at an increased risk for adverse health outcomes. Others struggle with eating disorders that strip them of their quality of life and can prove deadly.
Mindful eating offers potential complementary therapy to help people overcome compulsive overeating and other disordered habits. It also promises to help those who don’t have an identified disorder to exercise more control over their diets. Best of all, it increases your appreciation of every meal. You have nothing to lose by giving it a try!
What Is Mindful Eating?
You might think that mindful eating requires you to breathe deeply while you take 20 minutes to chew a grape. While you certainly want to slow down your pace, you don’t need to pretend you’re on a retreat at every meal. Many people lack the time, and you’ll only frustrate yourself.
Mindful eating simply entails paying more attention to what you’re putting into your body. It means avoiding behaviors such as emotional eating, like when you’re feeling bored or lonely. It also advises that you eliminate multitasking while you nosh.
Practicing mindfulness also involves embracing a spirit of gratitude for what you have. Expressing thankfulness is an integral part of overall happiness, and it can help you overcome an array of problems, from disordered eating to addictions. For example, if you have struggled with your weight your entire life, dinnertime might create significant anxiety. You want to indulge in foods that you love, but you worry about stepping on the scale the next day.
When you shift your focus to feeling and expressing appreciation for your ability to afford nourishing foods when many lack it, you can relieve some of the stress you feel.
Eating more mindfully does ask you to slow down, but you don’t have to count each time you chew — unless you want to do so. However, if you struggle with compulsive overeating, the technique can help you slow down and get back in touch with your body.
As you take each bite, take time to savor the flavors on your tongue. What unique profiles can you identify? How does the texture feel in your mouth? Most critically, how does your stomach feel? Learning to pay attention to when you feel full can help curb the urge to binge.
How to Practice Mindful Eating
If you’re ready to get started with mindful eating, the following tips can help you begin your journey.
Take a Cooking Class
Even if you consider yourself an experienced chef, you can always learn something new. If, like many, you learned how to run a stove at your caretaker’s knee, you will discover the five food flavors and how to balance them to make any recipe taste delicious.
Now is also the perfect time to experiment with a new meal plan that interests you. For example, if you are considering trying keto or a vegan lifestyle, you can find classes suited to these diets.
Bring Back Family Mealtimes
Mindfulness isn’t only for people who fly solo. If you have children, bring back the family dinner at least a few days per week. Strive to linger for at least 20 to 30 minutes while you savor your meal and catch up on your days. Keep electronic devices powered down, other than quiet mood music in the background, if you like. The idea is to focus your full attention on enjoying food and togetherness.
Make at Least One Meal a Day Mindful
There may be days when you have to eat at your desk to finish a critical client proposal. However, do try to make at least one meal daily a mindful one where you don’t engage in any other activities. Eventually, the mindset you cultivate during this experience will flow over into your midday dining.
Even if you indulge in a bag of crisps to fend off an afternoon crash, you’ll learn to savor the salty flavor on your tongue — and stop at one snack-sized bag.
Mindful eating improves your enjoyment of each meal. It can also help you break disordered patterns surrounding food. Give it a try during your next meal to see if you agree!