Mindful eating will help you stick to your diet, increase your enjoyment of food and dieting becomes effortless because you change your focus and your eating habits.
Part of the difficulty with sticking to a healthier diet is our tendency to eat for all sorts of reasons apart from hunger. Boredom, stress, low mood, loneliness… Eating is associated with a sense of safety.
Stress and food
Stress of any kind can push us towards behaviours which reduce uncertainty and make us feel more secure, and so stress is linked to overeating. It also encourages food intake for another reason; the fight-or-flight response prepares the body for a quick burst of energy, and that requires fuel. We crave carbs and sugar which can be easily converted into energy.
There are other, external cues which prompt us to eat. Like the time that you really didn’t need it, but you finished that last piece of bread/remains of the dessert, anyway. Those cues can be social (a celebration), the context (a need for reassurance), or habit. It just doesn’t come naturally to think about where and how we are eating, with whom, or to analyse every bite. At times like these, we eat mindlessly and barely even taste what we are putting into our mouths.
Become aware, mindfully
Mindfulness is about becoming fully aware of our experience, in the present moment. The trigger for you breaking your diet may be a feeling you can identify, a stress reaction, or simply a mindless habit. Becoming more mindful will make you conscious of your behaviour and offers you the choice of controlling it. Rather than mindlessly scooping that second helping, behaving mindfully makes you fully conscious of your actions.
Mindful eating means paying full attention to what, and how you eat. It has been shown to promote weight loss, reduce binge eating, and help you feel better. Rather than eating too quickly, too much, or ignoring your body’s signals, mindful eating slows you down.
Mindful eating allows you to become conscious of taste, and fully experience what you eat, chewing your food carefully and savouring each mouthful. As you do so, you can’t ignore what you eat. You’ll increase your enjoyment of food, improve your digestion, and become more selective about what you eat.
Simply put, mindful eating means:
- Fully appreciating your food
- Eating slowly, paying attention to your food
- Noticing the sensations in your mouth
- Chewing your food thoroughly
- Registering how your body feels and any signals it is sending you
- Learning to distinguish real hunger cues from non-hunger triggers
- Engaging your senses by noticing colours, tastes, textures, and flavours.
Mindful eating takes a little practice. As you progress, you can expand the activity to the mindful preparation of your meals.
Dieting becomes effortless because you change the focus of your eating.
Want to read more?
Try Mindless Eating, Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink.