We hear a lot about mindfulness, meditation, being present, and many other calming techniques on our search for peaceful life tools. Today we are going to look at mindfulness, specifically as it applies to your health. The term “mindfulness” was defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” He went on to develop the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is the author of the book Full Catastrophe Living.
Mindful eating is a subset of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work and is the main focus of today’s article. There are very few people that eat mindfully, and it shows. The obesity rate for those over 20 years of age is 40% in the United States and rising! In Canada, the number is around 30%. If you desire to shed some pounds, mindful eating is not a guarantee, but may provide a significant contribution to your success.
From the research out there, most people don’t eat mindfully. They’re watching television, talking, playing on their phone, or thinking about something else while they eat. By the time they are finished with whatever they were eating, they may realize that they don’t even remember eating or even what it was. These are habits that lead to mindless overeating and subsequent weight gain.
Let’s look at some ways on how to be mindful about our eating.
Mindful eating actually starts way before your food ever hits the plate. I recommend you begin your mindfulness journey with a list of what you plan to eat for the next several days. If you are disciplined enough to plan out your menus ahead of time, you will really benefit by bringing your list and sticking to it as much as possible.
From here, let’s go on to mindful shopping. If you have a list, make every effort to stick to it. You may have to make substitutions if things the things on your list are not available. However, avoid the tendency to just automatically buy the same things you’ve always bought at the store. (Remember yesterday how we talked about what happens if you always do what you’ve always done.)
Before you put any item in your shopping cart, ask yourself whether or not it supports your health goals. Be mindful of each item you choose to take home with you. If it’s not a healthy choice, and it never leaves the store with you, you aren’t going to be eating it later.
When eating, remove as many distractions as you can. Turn off the television. Put your phone away. Close your book. Ideally, you won’t even talk during a meal. Clear away all the distractions and just eat.
Start with a reasonable amount of food. The more food you put on your plate, the more you’re likely to eat. Start with about half to two-thirds of your normal amount. Tell yourself that you can always go back for seconds if you’re still truly hungry.
While you are eating, keep your full attention on your meal. Focus your thoughts on the experience of eating. This isn’t the time to think about work, your boss, your significant other, kids, or bills. Relax and focus your thoughts on eating.
Chew slowly and thoroughly. The faster you eat, the more you’ll eat. It takes a while for your brain to get the signal that you’re full. Eating slowly will help to prevent overeating. Take your time and chew slowly. The food isn’t going anywhere. Give yourself the chance to enjoy it.
Focus on the taste. Unhealthy foods often taste great if eaten quickly. Many of them aren’t so delicious if eaten slowly. Also, many healthy foods are more enjoyable if eaten more slowly. Really notice the flavor of your food.
Try an eating meditation. Here is one that I like to do every now and then. Take a piece of sweet fruit that you enjoy. It could be an orange or a small bunch of grapes. Eat the fruit very slowly and keep your full attention on every aspect of the flavor. Use all your senses – how does it feel, smell, taste, look, and sound while you eat it? Stop when you are satisfied or if the food has lost it’s flavor or the taste has diminished in any way. You may find you don’t want to finish the entire fruit, and that is perfectly okay.
On the flip side, if you were going to take an unhealthy food and do the same thing, you would most likely find it’s not that appetizing. Unhealthy foods are designed to be enjoyable only when eaten quickly before your body figures out what is really going on, since that’s how most people eat.
When you are working on mindful eating, wait until you’re actually hungry. There’s no reason to wait until you’re ravenous, and there’s also no reason to eat if you’re not hungry. Allow yourself to feel hunger before eating. Many of us eat out of habit or boredom rather than actual hunger.
Before you ever take that first bite, spend a moment being grateful for your food. It’s a privilege to have good healthy food to eat. Think about the sacrifices that went into providing the food you are about to eat. Think of those that may not be as fortunate to have healthy choices. Give thanks, and whenever possible share with others. Genuine giving from the heart, along with gratitude, is a part of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is paying attention to your emotions, surroundings, and actions. It’s a type of self-awareness. Few people take the time eat mindfully. We multitask while eating, and the result is not noticing what we eat, and most likely overeating out of habit with very little satisfaction. This is extremely unhealthy, and it’s simply just not an enjoyable way to eat.
Eat mindfully and notice the positive impact that mindfulness has on your life – mind, body, and spirit.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.
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