The Benefits of Practicing Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is here to do just one thing – help you build a better relationship with food. Mindful eating is not just a trendy new diet that is guaranteed to help you shed your extra weight. Neither is it here to tell you what you should and should not eat. It is an awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.

For example, during the craziness, stress, and extra food of the holidays that the stretch of Halloween to New Year’s Day brings in, you are more likely to eat mindlessly than mindfully. Here are simple guidelines to keep in mind while eating.

Let your body catch up to your brain: Slowing down is one of the best ways to get your mind and body to communicate what it really needs for nutrition. The body actually sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why you often unconsciously overeat. But, if you slow down, you can give your body a chance to catch up to your brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount. Simple ways to slow down might just include following many of your grandmother’s manners, like sitting down to eat, chewing each bite 25 times (or more), setting your fork down between bites, and all those old manners that are maybe not as pointless as they seemed.

Know your body’s personal hunger signals: Rather than just eating when you get emotional signals, which may be different for everyone, be it stress, sadness, frustration, loneliness, or even just boredom, we can still listen to our bodies. Is your stomach growling? Is your energy low? Are you feeling a little lightheaded? Too often, you eat when your mind tells you to, rather than your body. True mindful eating is actually listening deeply to your body’s signals for hunger.

Cultivate a mindful kitchen: Having a mindful kitchen means organizing and caring for your kitchen space so you can cultivate healthy eating and nourishing gatherings. Consider what you bring into your kitchen and where you put things away. Are healthy foods handy? What kinds of foods are in sight? When food is around, you will eat it.

Eat foods that are nutritionally healthy: When you slow down and eat healthy foods, you will often enjoy them more than the story you tell yourself about healthy foods. As you practice eating healthier and with a greater variety of foods, you are less inclined to binge on your comfort foods and more willing to enjoy healthy foods. Ultimately you find many foods mentally and physically satisfying instead of just a few.

Connect more deeply with your food:  Pause to consider all of the people involved in the meal that has arrived on your plate. From the loved ones or yourself who prepared it to those who stocked the shelves to those who planted and harvested the raw ingredients, it is hard not to feel both grateful and interconnected. With just a bit more mindfulness like this, you may begin to make wiser choices about sustainability and health in your food.

Attend to your plate: Multitasking and eating is a recipe for not being able to listen deeply to your body’s needs and wants. When you are distracted, it becomes harder to listen to your body’s signals about food and other needs. With your next meal, try single-tasking and just eating with no screens or distractions besides enjoying the company you are sharing a meal and conversation with.