What is mindfulness?

We know that the definition of “mindful” is to be aware of something. It could be towards others’ feelings, such as to be mindful not to offend or hurt someone. It could also refer to being mindful of your surroundings if you are in or entering a potentially dangerous situation such as preparing to cross the road. Mindfulness as a way of “being,” however, whether that be in a constant mental state, or used to improve a specific component of our lives, is rooted in Buddhist meditation.

What does mindfulness have to do with eating?

Mindful eating is simply about developing awareness of your experiences, physical cues, and feelings about the food you eat. Often, we tend to eat on autopilot. It is common to come home to eat dinner in front of the TV for example, or if eating alone at a cafe, many of us enjoy watching videos or texting on our phones while chomping on a sandwich. In mindful eating, we are invited to see what it feels like to truly pay attention to the food we are putting into our mouths. The goal is to remove distractions to allow ourselves to savour the full experience of eating: the flavours, the aromas, and the textures.

What are the benefits of eating mindfully?

Mindful eating has shown to aid some people in their weight loss journey. However, this practice is not a diet but rather a tool to help improve mindsets around food. It can be very helpful to those who struggle with eating disorders. Because, by bringing our attention to the experience of nourishing our bodies with the food we have, there is less room for getting wrapped up in the complicated thoughts and emotions we may have surrounding food. This “living in the moment,” concept of eating also results in the added benefit of being able to better distinguish between whether our emotions are pushing us to eat right now, or if we truly are hungry. Without distractions, we can more easily pay attention to what our bodies truly want.

How does one begin eating mindfully?

There is no cut and dry “tutorial,” for eating mindfully but anyone can incorporate a few or many small elements of it during their next meal if they decide to. With that said, here is a simple guideline you may wish to follow:

  1. Avoid distractions. You may wish to try eating alone rather than with others, make the conscious decision to put your phone down, or put off that Netflix show until you are finished eating.
  2. Begin with a small portion first. You can always choose to eat more if needed.
  3. Pause briefly before eating to think about all it took for this meal to arrive here, for you to eat. Express gratitude.
  4. Bring all your senses to the meal while cooking, serving and eating it. Pay attention to the ingredients colours, sounds (crunch crunch!), seasonings etc.
  5. Take small bites, and eat slowly. Putting your utensils down between bites can be very helpful with this.
  6. Chew thoroughly – flavours can be missed when we scarf down a bite of food.

If eating at a table full of people, such as during a Christmas dinner for example, eating mindfully may be a bit more challenging, but there are still some tips we can remember to follow amidst the chaos!

Sources: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mindful-eating-guide#tips https://www.headspace.com/mindfulness/mindful-eating https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating

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