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What Is Mindful Eating? About, Benefits & Practices

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What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful Eating is the non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. It is all about staying present in the moment, listening to your body, and improving your psychological health as it relates to your relationship with food. Simply observing how food makes you feel physically, emotionally, and mentally puts you back in control, instead of allowing food to control you.

There are three characteristics of mindful eating:

  1. Use all your senses in choosing and experiencing food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
  2. Note your responses to food without judgment (like/dislike texture, shape, color, flavor).
  3. Be aware of the connection between your emotions and eating, and the cues that let you know that your hunger has been satiated.

The Mindful Eating Cycle helps you truly answer the question “Am I hungry?”:

  • “WHY do I eat?” Are situations or emotions triggering you to eat when you’re not hungry?
  • “WHEN do I want to eat?” Can you tell the difference between physical hunger and eating triggered by boredom or stress?
  • “WHAT do I want to eat?” What types of foods do you feel like eating when you’re eating for emotional reasons? What food choice would satisfy both your body and mind?
  • “HOW do I eat?” Do you eat while distracted? Do you eat differently in private than you do in public?
  • “HOW MUCH do I eat?” How do you feel when you’re finished eating? Do you feel compelled to clean your plate? What situations or emotions trigger you to overeat?
  • “WHERE do I invest my energy?” Are you physically active? Do you spend a lot of time in front of your computer or TV? Do you practice self-care to reduce stress?

The Benefits of Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating has many significant benefits. Being mindful of the food you eat can promote better digestion, keep you feeling satiated with less food, and influence wiser choices about what you eat in the future. It can also help free you from unhealthy habits around food and eating. And here’s one last mind-blowing detail — food tastes better when we eat mindfully! Why? The more distracted you are, the less intense food tastes. WOW!

Does Mindful Eating help with weight loss? It can! Researchers have found a positive relationship between mindful eating and healthy eating. Mindfulness is associated with less impulsive eating and healthier snack choices. Mindfulness is also helpful in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, which are frequently responsible for triggering binge eating and emotional overeating.

Mindful Eating Practices

Mindful Eating isn’t just about what you eat and how you eat it. You should also take the time to consider the journey so much of our food takes from its origins to our fork. Think about who grew it, how it was grown, how far it had to travel to get to you, and how you chose to prepare it. Your food’s journey now becomes part of your own journey to a healthier life, so it’s worth taking a moment to process the lifecycle before you sit down to the table for a meal.

Here are 10 tips to help you build a Mindful Eating habit:

  1. Make eating an exclusive event rather than multitasking. Keep work and eating separate. Schedule time for your meals and snacks and allow yourself to honor that break.
  2. Start by taking a deep slow cleansing breath before the meal. Practice gratitude for the food and the company to thoroughly enjoy both.
  3. Notice the sensations in your body — rumbling stomach, low energy, stressed out, satisfied, full, empty. Be mindful of how hungry you are to make sure you’re only eating when you’re truly hungry, not just bored, stressed, tired, or anxious.
  4. Serve yourself a reasonable portion on a small plate instead of eating from the bag or pot. A smaller plate helps with portion control to ensure you are enjoying quality, not quantity.
  5. Avoid eating on the go or in the car. It’s difficult to be mindful when you’re in a rush. Turn off anything with a screen (TV, phone, tablet, computer), and try eating in silence. Acknowledge when your mind wanders but bring it back to eating. When you eat without distraction, you become aware of fullness cues and can respond appropriately.
  6. Embrace the 5 S’s: Sit, Slow Down, Savor, Simplify, and Smile. SIT at a table (you eat 5% more when standing). Eat SLOWLY (eating with your non-dominant hand will force you to take slower bites), chew your food thoroughly (recommended 30 chews for each bite before you swallow), and make each meal last at least 20 minutes. Put down your utensils between each bite and while talking and don’t pick them up again until you have already swallowed the bite you took last. Wait 15 minutes after eating to decide if you are still hungry. (It takes about 15 minutes for your brain to register if you’re full or not.) SAVOR your food by noticing each bite through all 5 senses. Don’t just mindlessly munch. SIMPLIFY by putting away food when you’re finished eating to reduce the temptation to eat just because it’s available. SMILE between bites to give you a moment to determine if you are truly satisfied.
  7. Eat before you get too hungry to minimize impulsive choices.
  8. Determine if a food is actually what you are craving by taking just a few bites. Are you genuinely hungry enough to eat more, or did those bites make you aware that you’ve been triggered into emotional eating?
  9. Treat yourself to one bite of a special food or dessert so you don’t feel like you’re missing out, but also don’t feel guilty for eating too much.
  10. Speak mindfully and compassionately to yourself. Notice when “shoulds” or rigid rules/guilt pops into your mind and set the negative talk aside.

Mindful Eating at OHI

Mindful Eating is being fully present in the sensory experience of eating — without judgment or interpretation. By being present in the moment and focusing solely on the sensory experience of your meal, you tune into your bodily sensations and make food choices that align with your values around better health and self-care practices. At OHI, every meal embraces the benefits of Mindful Eating. Our Digestion class teaches you the proper way to thoroughly chew each bite of food to optimize digestion in all organs and absorb healthy nutrients effectively to reach optimum physical wellness. We want you to develop a joyful relationship with food and with your body. As Zen teacher and author Jan Chozen Bays once said, “Mindful Eating replaces self-criticism with self-nurturing. It replaces shame with respect for your own inner wisdom.” Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Savor every bite. Enjoy better health!

A holistic healing retreat at OHI will reboot your mind body and spirit, give you the education you need to change your eating habits. Eat Mindfully and change your life!

Give yourself the gift of a healing retreat at OHI and jumpstart your holistic healing journey. Book your next visit to OHI today. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 to learn more about our holistic approach to health and wellness. See you soon!