The Basics of Mindful Eating: Learn Awareness of Triggers That Lead to Mindless Eating

It has become increasingly common to multitask while eating in this fast-paced world. Whether dining at your desk, on the way to your kids’ sporting events, or while watching a screen, mindless eating has become part of how we live. The problem is that it can lead to overeating, weight gain, digestive issues, unhealthy habits, and lack of satisfaction, to name a few. So, what can you do? It can be beneficial to incorporate some mindful eating practices into your routine.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating stems from the broader philosophy of mindfulness, a therapeutic technique used in many religions that focuses on accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and senses in the present moment. 

Mindful eating involves being aware of the food and drink you consume. You can achieve this by being fully present while eating and drinking, observing your thoughts and feelings about food without judgment, listening to your body’s cues, appreciating food, and eating with intention. The goal is to develop a heightened awareness of your eating habits and thoughts and feelings about food.

What are the benefits of Mindful Eating?

Eating mindfully can offer numerous benefits. For example, it can:

  • Foster a healthier relationship with food
  • Reduce emotional eating and mindless snacking
  • Increase awareness of hunger and fullness
  • Promote a greater sense of satisfaction with meals
  • Improve digestion
  • Cultivate healthy eating habits
  • Improve portion control
  • Contribute to overall well-being

Why are the triggers for Mindless Eating?

Part of mindful eating involves being aware of the physical and emotional triggers that can lead to mindless eating. Eating mindlessly can contribute to unhealthy eating habits like ignoring your body’s signals for hunger and fullness, eating when emotions tell us to, eating and multitasking, and eating at random times and places. These “bad” triggers may not be the same for everyone, but here are a few examples of potential triggers:

  1. Emotional stress
  2. Boredom
  3. Social pressure
  4. Environmental cues
  5. Unconscious habits
  6. Negative self-talk
  7. Lack of sleep
  8. Dehydration
  9. Diets and restrictions
  10. Unbalanced meals

How do I pracrice Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating involves adopting various strategies to cultivate awareness and a more intentional approach to eating. Here are some mindful eating strategies that you can incorporate into your daily routine:

  1. Plan your meals:Plan what you will eat for the day. Most of your food should be healthy, but you can also include some less healthy options. Planning for these foods will help you avoid overeating them.
  2. Know your body: Listen to your physical hunger cues (stomach growling, loss of energy) and pay attention to your emotional state before eating. Are you eating because you are hungry or due to a “bad” trigger?
  3. Be mindful of portion sizes: Use smaller plates to control portion sizes
  4. Eat smaller meals: Eat smaller meals more frequently. This will help you avoid bloating, which can make you need more food to feel full at future meals.
  5. Assess your food: How does it look? Does it look appealing? Can you recognize it, or is it highly processed to the point that you’re not sure what it is? What does it smell like? Where does it come from? Reassess after your first bite and determine if you want to continue eating it.
  6. Connect more deeply with your food: Think about how your food arrived on your plate, from the people who planted and harvested the food to the person who stocked the shelves. Consider the recipes passed down through generations and the loved ones who prepared the meals. Thinking about these things can help you feel more connected to the food and where it came from.
  7. Express gratitude: Before starting a meal, take a moment and express thanks for the food on your plate and the nourishment that your meal provides.
  8. Eat without distractions: When you’re distracted, it’s harder to listen to your body’s signals. Eliminate distractions by putting away your screens (or books and newspapers) and paying attention only to your food and the conversation with your family or company.
  9. Engage your senses: Take time to appreciate the food. You can do this by observing how it looks, smells, and feels in your mouth.
  10. Eat slowly and only until you’re full: Did you know that your body sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain? This means that we can unconsciously overeat. In addition, your mouth releases enzymes that help with digestion while you are chewing. So, slow down. You can do this by:
    • Taking small bites
    • Chewing your food thoroughly (at least 25 times)
    • Putting your utensils down in between bites
    • Using your non-dominant hand to eat
    • Pausing to take breaths between bites
    • Eating with others
  11. Investigate your hunger: Throughout your meal, think about eating, tasting, and savoring your food. Ask yourself if you are still hungry and whether you still find the food appealing. If not, give yourself permission to stop eating.
  12. Stay hydrated: Make sure to drink water throughout the day because sometimes feelings of hunger can be confused with being thirsty.

It takes time to develop mindfulness. So, be patient and kind to yourself as you start incorporating these practices into your daily routine. 

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