You know that feeling when you’re so tired and hungry that you pick up the first thing you see and eat it? Driving to work and eating a croissant you’ve picked up on the way? Or when you return home from work, open the fridge, and dig into yesterday’s pasta?
Don’t worry. We’ve all been there! It’s normal to have moments like these in this fast-paced society. This is especially true during the Christmas and holiday season, as we often eat more than our body actually needs – either because it’s so delicious we just can’t stop, or because our grandma is telling us so!
But what and how we eat can fundamentally affect our life and wellbeing. Keep reading to learn more about mindful eating and why you should give it a try.
In this article
What is mindful eating?
Let’s have a look.
Mindful eating means you’re entirely present while eating, without scrolling through Instagram, texting a friend, watching Netflix or any other distraction keeping your mind from being actively involved in enjoying the food in front of you.
It’s one of the many mindfulness practices and a form of meditation. As with all meditation techniques, it demands your full attention. Some people use it as a weight-loss tool, but this is not its main objective. However, when you try it, weight loss usually happens due to the changes you make to your eating routines and reducing the stress associated with eating.
It may also effectively treat common but unhealthy eating behaviours like emotional and external eating – we’ll dive deeper into those later on.
How to eat mindfully
Ready to gain control over your eating habits?
Let’s do it! In essence, eating mindfully means:
- Eating slowly and without distractions, which lets you see when you’re full.
- Paying attention to triggers for eating.
- Engaging your senses while eating.
- Noticing the effects food has on how you’re feeling.
- Appreciating your food.
This may sound easy but try putting it into practice! Let’s dive deeper into these steps.
Eating slowly and without distractions
To let your brain acknowledge how much you already ate and determine when you’re full, you need to eat slower.
Some studies have found that it takes your stomach about 20 minutes to produce the hormones that signal your brain that you are full, meaning you’ve often already satisfied hunger but don’t know it yet! This leads to unconsciously overeating. Try to eat slower and give your brain a chance to catch up to your body.
However, it’s not all your brain’s fault. It could be your genes as well! Your genes can uncover your tendency for insatiability and hunger. How? Well, your combination of the FTO and NMB genes can indicate whether it’s less or more likely for you to have trouble reaching the feeling of satiety or the feeling of a full stomach after a meal.
Discover your tendency for insatiability and hunger with the MyLifestyle DNA test.
Learn what triggers you to eat
Were you passing a bakery and deciding to spoil yourself with a quick, warm, fluffy cinnamon roll? Did a tempting smell from a nearby fast-food corner convince you to get yourself a quick bite of that delicious cheeseburger? Were you bored and decided to snack on some potato chips? If this happens often, it means you’re responding to external or emotional wants, not to your body’s needs.
Emotional eating means you’re eating due to stress, sadness, boredom, or other emotions. In contrast, external eating occurs when you eat in response to environmental, food-related cues, such as the sight or smell of food. And this is something you want to avoid while practising mindful eating.
Next time, focus on the signs of hunger your body is giving you, not your brain. This could be a growling stomach, low energy levels, or even feeling a bit lightheaded. Observe and listen to your body to discover how hunger manifests itself in you.
- Engage your senses
While eating, try to engage your senses as much as possible. Feel the sensation of every bite you take, think about smells, sounds, flavours, textures, and how you feel while eating this certain meal.
Thoroughly chew, taste, savour, and feel the food while you eat – this will also make you eat slower and help you discover when you’re full.
- Notice how you feel after you eat
Also, pay attention to how you feel after eating, not just during the meal. If you’re dealing with brain fog, feel tired, bloated, sleepy or just generally in a bad mood, this particular food choice might not be the best one for you.
How you feel after eating can tell you a lot about the food you’re enjoying.
If you’re facing any problems, we recommend keeping a food diary. It will help you keep track of what you’ve eaten over the day and identify which foods or ingredients are causing you discomfort.
This can be the first step for identifying certain food intolerances. Did you notice bloating after eating dairy products? You could be lactose intolerant!
Your genetic predispositions can warn you about intolerances as well. With our MyLifestyle DNA test, you can discover your tendency for lactose, gluten, caffeine, or alcohol intolerance and start creating smarter food habits!
- Appreciate your food
Show some gratitude! Whether you’ve made a nice dinner for yourself or someone who cares about you has put their love and effort into cooking for you – consider all that went into the meal! Not just the preparation and cooking, but also the farmers who worked hard on the fields, the sun, water, and soil necessary for the crops to grow.
Food and the whole eating experience is a wonderful part of our lives. Just think about the lovely moments we spent with our loved ones during the holidays or even just enjoying a meal together on an ordinary day!
Savouring your food means taking time to choose the food you really like and that you feel would satisfy you at this moment. It also means being fully present for the experience of eating and taking pleasure in that experience.
Similar steps are described in what is called BASICS of mindful eating. This is an acronym that can help you follow the steps of taking a pause and reserving the time for yourself to eat mindfully.
Let’s see how BASICS can help you remember the steps needed to practise mindful eating.
The BASICS of mindful eating
B stands for breathing before you eat. It encourages you to take five deep breaths before eating to determine if you feel physical hunger or you might be just bored, tired, or stressed. If you’re physically hungry, take your time to choose food that you can enjoy and savour. If you’re not, maybe there is something else your body wants, like movement or rest.
A stands for assessing your food. Be the judge of the food in front of you! What does it look and smell like? Is this the food you really want? How will it improve your current feeling? Assess it and decide.
S stands for slowing down. Put down your fork or spoon between bites. Take a pause and take a breath between bites, and make sure to chew your food thoroughly.
I stands for investigating your hunger throughout the meal. Be aware of your distractions and keep bringing your attention back to eating, savouring, and assessing your hunger and satiety clues. Even if there’s still food on your plate, you might not be hungry anymore. That’s okay! Based on your hunger and satiety, use your judgment to decide whether you want to continue or stop with your meal.
C stands for chew your food thoroughly. Take small bites and pay attention to many sensations available to you as you chew. If you chew your food thoroughly, your body will process the food more efficiently, and you will also get much more nutritional value from it.
S stands for savour your food. As we mentioned, savouring your food and the whole eating experience is vital for eating mindfully. It will also lead you to eat smaller portions.
Take a look at our infographic below to discover the difference between mindless and mindful eating.
The benefits of mindful eating
We hope this is enough to get you started with mindful eating. When you become more attuned to your body, however, you will begin to feel how different foods affect you – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
This will make it easier for you to make appropriate food choices as time goes by and you get used to eating mindfully.
There’s no need to do this every time you eat – and it’s probably doubtful you’ll have the time for it. In the beginning, try with at least one meal a day and see how it changes your perspective on food!
Besides improving your eating habits and nutrition, mindful eating can also help fight obesity and depression.
As with all mindful practices, it can also help your anxiety, relax you and your mind, and relieve stress and tension – both common emotional eating triggers.
Because mindful eating encourages you to slow down, it also improves digestion, keeps you full with less food, and guides you towards smarter choices about what you eat in the future.
If you’re struggling with identifying what is smart for you, let your genes help. A DNA test can reveal your response to key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and even your perfect diet type – you just have to unlock them. And you can do that with our MyLifestyle DNA test!
Bring awareness to the table
Yup, it’s possible to get even greater pleasure and satisfaction from the food you eat! If you’re ready to transform your relationship with food, become more in tune with your body, learn to slow down and appreciate yourself more, try mindful eating.
Embracing it will most likely naturally lead you to a healthy weight if you’re persistent with it. However, be careful when trying mindful eating to lose weight.
As we choose food based on a certain outcome, such as weight loss, we are not eating mindfully — we are doing it with a specific goal, which is not the purpose of mindful eating.
Mindful eating simply invites us to start eating in a healthier, more balanced way, without any guilt, anxiety, worries, or inner predictions about which food is “bad” or “good”.
Try being more aware when you eat, and you’ll also be calmer, healthier, and happier overall. It’s a win-win situation!