Mindful eating is a hot topic in the media at the moment. In fact, you might be mistaken for thinking it’s the ‘new paleo’ or a new clean eating regimen, but it is neither of those things. So what is it, why should we try it and how can we start practising it? Dietician and Nutritionist, Christina Turner shares why we should all try mindful eating and how we can start.
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First Thing Is First, What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is not a diet, but a way of eating based on the ancient Buddhist philosophy of mindfulness. In fact, mindfulness and mindful eating go hand-in-hand.
Practising mindfulness means living moment to moment, paying close attention to our thoughts and everything around us without judgment.
Importantly, when we’re talking about mindful eating, it’s not just a matter of saying “I watch what I eat” or “I’m mindful of what I eat”. It’s about being in the moment when we eat and truly listening to and trusting our body’s cues for when, how much and what to eat in any given situation.
Some of the key steps to mindful eating are:
1. Learning what kind of eating style we have and if we have triggers to our own eating. This could be things like emotional triggers, technology distractions or just having certain foods around us
2. Starting a regular mindfulness or meditation practice to help us to be less reactive to our day-to-day stresses
3. Learning how to pay close attention to internal body signals like hunger, fullness, taste preferences, thoughts and emotions
4. Applying the nutrition information that’s out there so that we are able to stay healthy, without being on a restrictive diet.
So why should you try it?
The research shows diets don’t work in the long term for 95% of people. Dieting has also been shown to have a negative effect on our physical and mental health. For example, frequently dieting puts us at a higher risk of depression and anxiety and developing an eating disorder. Additionally, if our weight fluctuates a lot it can also cause inflammation within our body, which may damage our physical health through our heart health and risk of diabetes.
Conversely, recent studies have shown mindful eating produces a whole host of health benefits, including reducing our stress and anxiety, and helping to manage our blood sugar levels and diabetes management, reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, gut health symptoms, emotional eating and overeating. This effect occurs regardless of our body weight.
Mindful eating produces these health benefits because it helps us to slow down meal times, take a pause and pay much more close attention to our eating. This translates to ensuring we eat the ‘right’ foods, in the ‘right’ amount and at the ‘right’ time according to our own needs.
Here are 5 tips to start practising mindful eating today
1. Start a daily mindfulness practice.
The research shows when we include meditation alongside mindful eating practices we see more positive effects. We’re often less stressed and find it easier to manage our daily emotional ups and downs. This gives us a solid foundation for eating mindfully.
2. Check your hunger fuel gauge.
When it comes to your next mealtime, visualise driving up to a petrol station and glancing at your fuel gauge. Check in to see how hungry you are. If you are hungry, what food might you like? How much will you need to eat to feel comfortably full?
3. Cut the distractions
When we eat slowly and reduce our distractions, we’re more likely to eat mindfully. You can start by reducing technology distractions like putting the phone away at mealtimes and carving out time away from your desk to eat lunch.
4. Savour the taste.
Have you noticed the first piece of chocolate can often be the tastiest? But if we keep eating many chocolates it can be hard to find the same joy from the first bite. This is called the law of diminishing returns and you can counteract it by eating your favourite foods slowly and really savouring the taste.
5. Choose foods you enjoy eating.
When we deprive ourselves of the foods we genuinely love we are more likely to crave them, “cave-in” and eventually overeat them so include them in your diet in a mindful way to avoid the cravings.
I’ve seen Mindful Eating help countless people develop a more positive relationship with food and in turn themselves. So instead of dieting your way to the bikini body you think you should have this summer try Mindful Eating instead and be kind to yourself and your health!
Happy eating – MINDFULLY!