We all experience moments of indulgence that lead to overeating. If it happens once in a while, it’s nothing to worry about. If it happens frequently, it should be a matter of concern. Many people unconsciously overeat and don’t realize it until after they finish a meal. That’s where mindfulness exercises can help you stick to reasonable portion sizes.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, and observing the inputs flooding your senses. At meal time, think about how the food looks, how it tastes and smells. What’s the texture? What memories does it bring up? How does it make you feel? By being mindful at meals, you’ll slow down the eating process, pay more attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and perhaps avoid overeating.
Eating should not be an automatic process of “See food, Take food, Eat food”.
Eating mindfully is not just a fad. It has proven benefits ranging from the physical (e.g. loss of weight) to the psychological (e.g. reduced anxiety about eating).
Here are a few of the ways mindful eating has shown to be effective.
- Avoid screens at the table. Phones, tablets, and television screens only serve to distract during meals.
- Eat in peaceful, uncluttered place. Eat at place designated for eating and avoid eating on your bed. Sit down and eat together. Eating together at the table is a good habit to cultivate for a lot of reasons; it’s a good way to introduce new foods, engage your children in conversation, and make eating a priority.
- Pace your meal for 20 minutes. Chew your food properly.
- Savor: Notice the texture, aroma, and flavor (is it crunchy, sweet, salty, smooth, spicy?).
- Take a deep breath or take a second to be thankful for your meal before eating.
- Make eating an exclusive event rather than multitasking. Keep away the newspaper or the book you are reading.
- Check your stress level before eating, as you might be turning to food even when you’re not really hungry.
- Be mindful of the portions, to ensure you are enjoying quality, not quantity.
- Eat before you get too hungry or you might make impulsive choices.
- Serve yourself a reasonable portion, instead of eating directly from the bag or box.
- Try eating in silence; acknowledge when your mind wanders, but bring it right back to eating whenever you notice it.
Mindful Exercises to practice
Practicing mindfulness when you’re not eating, sharpens your mindfulness ‘muscles’.
- Focused breathing. Breathe in and breathe out slowly. With each in breath, allow your belly to go out. With each out breath, allow your belly to go in. Whenever you have couple of minutes try practicing this.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. In this exercise, you tighten and release one major muscle group at a time for 20 seconds. As you release a contraction, notice how it feels for the muscles to relax.
- Take a mindful walk, even if it’s just for five minutes. Notice the colour of the leaves. Feel the breeze. Has anything changed in the surrounding?
- Keep a journal & Gratitude diary. Write down the details of your day. Try to include what your senses took in — the sights, sounds, and smells you experienced, and the textures you touched. Things or people whom you are grateful for.
The more mindful you become throughout your day, the more mindful you’ll become when you eat. And you may find that you’re getting better at making decisions about the food you consume