You know that moment when you’re nibbling away at a meal while watching a movie and suddenly you look at your plate and it’s all gone? Like – blink of an eye, all of that deliciousness somehow traveled from your plate to your tummy and you aren’t even quite sure how it happened?
It’s kind of like your food just vanished, right? (I’ve certainly been there!) Totally unsatisfying.
What about that naughty treat that you dig into on occasion, only to feel incredibly guilty about it minutes after you’re done? Or when you accidentally over-eat and have to suffer through an uncomfortable food baby.
And for anyone who counts calories, the frustrating moments where you try to keep track. Food and math seriously don’t mix well.
It’s amazing how our relationship with food can be so incredibly unfulfilling.
Eating should be a simple, amazing, and spiritual ritual that supports our health… but in truth, it has turned into a complicated, complex and confusing act that often causes a lot of frustration, unhappiness and even discomfort. And while there are many potential factors at play here, one major reason many of us experience these negative feelings is because we often eat mindlessly.
Learning to be present and mindful when we eat can be a total game changer. Let’s talk about what mindful eating is, how it supports your health and discuss some mindful eating tips to make it super easy:
My Journey to Mindful Eating
I certainly didn’t grow up eating mindfully. This little health-esteemie used to scarf down whole tubs of ice cream and fast food burgers like they were going out of style. And I didn’t take a lot of time to savour the flavours. I never gave much thought to how I ate. That is until an autoimmune disease diagnosis knocked me off my feet.
For any newbies in the house (welcome <3), at 24 I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an incurable autoimmune disease, and developed other conditions like Graves Ophthalmopathy and Benign Neutropenia along the way (the joys of an unhappy immune system.)
While learning to live with a chronic illness I realized that I needed to make a commitment to my well-being and treat my body with love and kindness. I empowered myself to do everything I can to thrive in spite of my diagnosis. And that opened the door to a lot of wonderful, powerful and life altering changes.
Honestly, I changed EVERYTHING. And, because of that, everything changed. What surprised me most was I actually had a lot of fun along the way. Today I am so grateful to be able to say that I’m in remission and feeling amazing!
You know what I learned?
(That’s little old me… showing my love (obsession?) for bananas. Tell me I’m not the only one who can’t live without them?)
Healthy eating isn’t all that complicated. I seriously used to think that a healthy diet was all about restrictions and sounded incredibly unsatisfying. Boy was I wrong!
Eating well is about abundance and can be incredibly enjoyable when you approach it the right way. And when you combine all of that goodness with mindfulness you can seriously create something magical and amazingly satisfying. Doesn’t that sound awesome?!
Mindful eating has been one of the many changes I’ve fostered since Graves Disease and I am super thankful for it. It’s a regular form of self care. And I know that it’s something that you can easily benefit from too. Are you excited to give it a try?
What is Mindful Eating Exactly
Let’s break it down, shall we? Before we dive into our mindful eating tips, let’s take a peek at what mindfulness is in the first place:
Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. It involves paying attention to what’s happening inside of your body and your mind and/or bringing your awareness to the world around you. But, most importantly, mindfulness is about being present and aware without criticism or judgment.
And sure, that all sounds pretty wonderful as is. But the coolest thing about mindfulness is that it has some serious health benefits.
Take a look at some of the health benefits of mindfulness meditation for example:
- Reduces Anxiety and Stress
- Improves Focus and Concentration
- Decreases Blood Pressure
- Increases Empathy and Compassion
When you break it down, mindfulness meditation is one of the simplest and truest forms of being present in the moment. And you can take a lot of those fantastic health benefits with you whenever and however you choose to practice mindfulness. Whether you’re doing yoga, walking, deep breathing or even eating, you can work mindfulness into the equation.
Combine Mindfulness and Eating with These 8 Mindful Eating Tips
I like to think about mindful eating as a sort of simple food based meditation. It’s like mindfulness meditation, except your focus is your food. You’re present in the moment, paying attention to the sensations and feelings that arrive while you enjoy your meal.
Here are 8 Fantastic Mindful Eating Tips:
- Tune into your body and focus on your hunger
- Remove distractions, like your phone or TV
- Notice the colours on your plate – it’s so satisfying to see a healthy rainbow of goodness waiting to be enjoyed
- Inhale the pleasant scent and pay attention to how it makes you feel
- Take a bite and focus on the texture, flavours, temperature and/or even the sound and savour it
- Take your time – chew slowly and enjoy every moment
- Focus on how you feel – hungry, satisfied, relaxed…
- Practice gratitude – be thankful that you have this meal, the equipment to cook it, access to the ingredients, etc.
Much like with any form of meditation, practice makes perfect. You may notice your mind wander, and that’s ok. Simply acknowledge your thoughts with kindness and gently pull your focus back to your meal. Start simple and be patient with yourself. One step at a time and you’ll be a mindful eating pro before you know it.
5 Health Benefits of Mindful Eating
Those mindful eating tips may be sound awesome on their own, but let’s take a peek at what we have to gain! Because it’s all about those gains baby, am I right? Here’s some of the goodness mindful eating has to offer:
1. Stop Overeating in it’s Tracks
Did you know that it can take up to 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full? Bonkers, I know! But this can be a real problem if you’re distracted and eating in a hurry.
When you’re trying to get a meal in super quick, shoveling each bite down, you may fill up the tank way too fast. Which means that by the time your brain knows that you’re full you may be a lot fuller than you want to be. (source)
And being too full can mean discomfort, bloating (hello food baby), irregular bowl movements and all the un-fun things that come along with digestive upset. Seriously not fun!
2. Get More Nutrients from your Meal
This may sound a little silly, since I just said that you eat less when you practice mindful eating, but hear me out. According to the brilliant minds at Harvard University, it’s very possible that when you’re eating in a hurry (say working at your desk or while driving) you may actually be in a state similar to fight or flight. (source)
The interesting thing about fight or flight is that it slows down or even stops the digestive process. This is because having energy to run away or fight the bad guy is a lot more important than digestion in a fight or flight situation.
And remember, whether you’re worried about reaching a deadline or afraid of a bear in the woods, the fight or flight reaction is pretty much the same.
So, when we eat in a state of hurry or stress we’re eating with a slowed or halted digestive system. And that means we aren’t going to digest things well. We might not even get all of the nutritional goodness our food has to offer. Which is a bummer! In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.
3. Differentiate Between Emotional Eating and Physical Hunger
According to psychologist Dr. Jean Kristeller, Professor Emeritus at Indiana State University and founding member and President of The Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating helps us recognize the difference between emotional and physical hunger and recognize when we’re full. (source)
Which is fantastic! Because stress can definitely have us reaching for unhealthy comfort foods. While studies do show that comfort foods actually do temporarily lower stress, they also show us that doing this on the regular has a negative impact on our health. (source)
While it’s ok to reach for something comforting on occasion, when we use this as a regular coping mechanism we often accumulate more dangerous visceral fat. Visceral fat has been linked to health issues like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic issues and breast cancer. (source)
All the more reason to get your mindful eating on! Studies even show that this awesome form of self care reduces the urge to binge eat and makes meals more enjoyable. Woohoo!
4. Reduces Stress and Improve Your Mood
The good news is, even if we’re giving up on emotional eating (thus easing out of an easy way to reduce stress), practicing these mindful eating tips actually helps to lower your stress levels too!
It works the same way that mindfulness meditation works to nip stress in the bud. Remember how I said that I like to think of mindful eating as a form of meditation? While, that’s actually kind of true (and so cool!)
Mindful eating, much like meditation, helps to reduce the psychological and physiological symptoms of stress, including depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular health (source).
Mindfulness also helps to activate the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, a part of the brain that controls thinking and emotion, and the Ventromedial Prefontal Cortex, which controls worrying. These two babies working together help to reduce anxiety, leaving you feeling more relaxed (source).
Super bonus! When we treat ourselves to a meditative meal we may also lower cortisol levels, a hormone that’s associate with mental and physical stress (source). Which means an even more relaxed you. That’s a whole lot of de-stressing from one simple self care activity!
5. Allow your Body to Find its Way to its Optimal Weight
I want to preface this section by saying that your body is beautiful just the way that it is! I don’t want you to feel like these mindful eating tips involve a focus on weight. That takes the mindfulness part away. Remember, we are looking to be present and appreciative of the moment without judgement or criticism.
And I also want to stress the importance of differentiating between obsessing with your food and appreciating the experience with these mindful eating tips. They are two incredibly different things. It’s s important that our relationship with food (and with our beautiful selves) be healthy, satisfying and fulfilling.
That being said, studies do show that your body will find it’s way to it’s own optimal weight (which is different for everyone) when you make mindful eating a priority. It also helps to promote long term metabolic balance. Which means that we can forget about counting calories and the scale! Instead, mindful eating lets us take care of our beautiful selves and let our gorgeous body do it’s thang. (source 1, 2, 3)
How To Work These Mindful Eating Tips Into Your Routine
I’m sure we can all agree that mindful eating has so much to offer! But, in this day and age, it can be really hard to eat without distraction. While it’s not always possible to practice these mindful eating tips to their full extent (which is totally ok), we can definitely work them into our routines periodically and reap the rewards.
Here are a few ways that you make mindful eating part of your routine:
1. Try not to eat at your work desk.
Not only is it important to take a break and experience a change of scenery, it’s easier to eat mindfully away from your work. Eat in the lunch room or find a nice bench outside and focus on your meal.
2. When enjoying a drink, try taking the first few sips mindfully.
Close your eyes and focus on how the drink makes you feel. Is it hot or cold? What does it taste like? Does it quench your thirst or make you feel good? This is an easy way to work in a quick moment of mindful eating. And it works well even if you are stuck sitting in front of your computer at work or experiencing a busy day.
3. When eating with a group see if everyone is comfortable enjoying 5 minutes of mindful eating.
You can make it fun by sharing some of your mindful eating tips and having a discussion afterwards. Share your thoughts of gratitude and feelings about the flavour. How did this dish make you feel? What part of the meal was everyone’s favourite? Thank the chef. This can make for great dinner conversation.
4. Try not to combine activities like reading or watching TV with eating.
If you’re enjoying a snack hit pause or put your book down for a moment. Take a bite. Savour the flavour and focus on your food before turning back to your activity.
5. Once a week try to enjoy a meal completely mindfully.
If possible find a quiet place, much like you would when you meditate. Focus on your food, the deliciousness and how it makes you feel. This can be inside of your house, outside in your backyard, on a park bench… Basically anywhere that you feel comfortable and won’t be interrupted.
Mindful eating is something that anyone can easily tap into. Even if you’re a busy bee, you can absolutely work some of these mindful eating tips into your routine.
Remember – this doesn’t mean that each meal needs to be a meditative experience. If you can only make time for a mindful meal once a week that’s ok! And if you can only spare a minute to mindfully appreciate the first two bites that’s fine too.
It may take a little effort, but with some practice you’ll be a mindful eating pro in no time! And you know that you have a ton of goodness to gain! Isn’t that awesome?
Have you tried mindful eating before? Are you excited to give it a go? What mindful eating tips would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!
And if you’d like to make more time for self care and (mindfully) enjoy some healthy dessert, you can download my free Self Care Planner and Healthy Dessert Recipe E-Book Fo’ Free right here.
Health and love,
Thought of the day: I am so blessed to have access to healthy, delicious food and incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to nourish my body.
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