Described as “bringing attention to the present moment without judgement” mindfulness is a practice that can help to reduce stress and improve the way we make decisions.
But interestingly, mindfulness is also emerging as a helpful tool for weight loss, and for anyone wanting to balance their relationship with food and eating.
The truth is, most of our eating is done mindlessly. On autopilot.
Without really paying attention to whether we’re actually hungry, or what sort of food we might need.
See if any of these examples ring true…
- Scooping down a bowl of breakfast cereal sat in front of e-mails
- Eating whilst scrolling through your phone – or running to the next meeting
- Eating bites of lunch between answering emails, or whilst posting on Instagram
- Heading to the fridge when you hit a tricky part of work (distraction!)
- Emptying your dinner plate, regardless of how full you feel
- Eating because food is offered to you – at a meeting – or lunch – or from a colleague
- Eating a meal in front of the T.V. – and then looking down and wondering where it’s gone – but still feeling hungry
- Eating in response to sadness, anger – but not being aware of it
- Eating by someone else’s rules (because we think that’s a good thing to do)
If these sound familiar, rest assured you’re in good company.
The truth is, we all eat mindlessly from time to time. And that’s normal.
But (and here’s the kicker)… the more often we eat mindlessly, the more likely it is to become problematic.
This is because eating mindlessly (without awareness) disconnects us from physical hunger, satiety – and how we feel before and after eating.
- When we eat mindlessly we eat more than we need – but feel less satisfied.
- When we eat mindlessly, we eat for reasons other than hunger
And over the long term, this can lead to weight gain, and chaotic eating habits.
Mindful eating means bringing your full attention to food and eating.
It involves tuning into your physical hunger and satiety, before, during and after a meal, to help you make decisions about when, what and how much to eat.
Why is mindful eating helpful?
Mindful eating delivers a number of benefits…
- It connects you with your hunger, so you become aware of times when you’re eating for other reasons (e.g. stress, boredom) helping you manage them differently
- It helps you to connect with satiety – so you can tune into when you’ve had enough – before cleaning your plate
- It helps you decide what to eat – by tuning into how your body feels – rather than listening to external ‘rules’ on what is good and bad food
- it increases enjoyment of food
- it means you’re less likely to overeat
- it reduces anxiety around food and eating
Studies show that practicing mindfulness both during eating – and around eating – can reduce emotional and binge eating, leading to weight loss without calorie counting and rigid diets.
Now, doesn’t that sound good?
Mindful eating is a skill, but you can start by bring your full attention to one meal each day, or simply asking yourself before you go to eat, am I hungry? How do I know? And if the answer is no, what else might you be in need of at this moment?