Mindfulness is our ability to remain present in the moment we are in and be aware of what is happening around us (external environment and stimuli) and what is happening within us (emotional state, feelings, body sensations and physical cues). Practicing mindfulness help improve our awareness increasing our attention to external stimuli that may be affecting our eating habits and to our internal emotional state that may be the root cause of our eating habits!
There is significant research proving that mindfulness techniques improve unhealthy eating habits and develop a more positive and healthy relationship with food. Weight gain, in certain cases is a result of emotional eating and without awareness of the root cause of this habit, it will be more challenging to break or change it! Studies have also reported that mindfulness practice can reduce physiological distress such as depression, anxiety, stress, and eating behaviors including binge and emotional eating. In addition to weight loss in overweight and obese people.
Most of the time we eat on autopilot mode (a state of vague awareness of what is happening around us and within us) and this is due to the rush of life and our fast-paced living! We eat in a mechanical way with minimum or no attention to what we eat, how much we consume and how that makes us feel on a physical level. We ignore signs our body might be sending us and as a result we end up overeating and/or eating more junk food than we should! We eat while; watching TV, talking, studying, or working and as a result we become so used to just doing the act of eating rather than eating with awareness and being one with our senses!
When we become more mindful, we are more aware of our food choices, the quantity we eat, and our emotions at the time of eating. Consequently, we are more aware of what needs to change, what habits to break, and what choices to make! A mindfulness technique that is used to bring full attention to our experiences while eating is “Mindful eating”!
Mindful eating is a technique that is used to bring awareness to our eating experiences, by engaging our senses fully while eating. As a result, we become more aware of our cravings and physical signs or cues while eating which consequently help us break unhealthy eating habits and behaviors.
Practicing mindful eating and mindfulness in general will allow us to replace automatic thoughts and reactions with more thought through and conscious healthier responses. We become more conscious of how, what, when and why we eat.
The act of eating can be a tremendously enjoyable experience, if we spend some time to be fully aware of our senses while eating, which allows us to notice any negative eating habits or patterns and consequently help us maintain a healthy weight, make healthy choices and enjoy food in a more mindful way!
Mindful eating involves the following:
- Engaging your senses fully while eating (noticing colors, smells, textures and flavors)
- Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying and nourishing to your body
- Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes, or neutral) without judgment
- Slow paced eating without distraction if possible
- Listening to your body and the cues it gives regarding hunger or fullness
- Noticing the effect of food on your feelings and moods
- Recognizing true hunger triggers and distinguishing between them and non-hunger ones
- Coping with feelings associated or attached to food, like guilt and anxiety
- Eating with the intention of maintaining overall health and wellbeing
So, does mindful eating really work? And can it replace popular diets? Well, diets focus on restricting calories or food categories or types that may work for a short period of time; while mindful eating provides the mean to improve the body’s natural ability to control eating behaviors. Therefore, mindfulness is more long-term and results in cultivating an awareness around food and health that helps us make appropriate lifestyle decisions like exercising regularly and making healthy food choices that are both nourishing and satisfying to our bodies that will result in positive behavior change that will improve our overall health and wellbeing.