Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Many people believe it to be a practice, but for me, it more of an awareness within my way of being - it's a state of being without criticism or judgement. We can always be mindful or our breath and choose to slow it down, or mindful of our body, and if we are holding it very tense we can relax our muscles.
We can be mindful and aware of our responses to situations that upset us, or aware of our thoughts, feelings and emotions.
What Mindfulness really allows, is a better perception, understanding and acceptance of ourselves.
Mindful eating has become a bit of a trend, that unfortunately, quite often puts people off, as it suggests that maybe we are not doing something right, maybe we should be improving our eating habits or maybe I'm not eating well enough.... I'm sure you get the picture. However, eating mindfully doesn't have to be about correcting the wrongs or bad habits, it can simply be focussed on helping your body enjoy what you do eat, and help your body digest food better. For some people mindful eating is simply to gain some more awareness of their eating so the feel more satisfied after.
Whilst many mindful eating sources cite the importance of eating foods that are sustainable for the Earth itself, I wanted this blog to focus instead on your feelings, and the benefits gained from slowing down and staying present while eating.
As you begin truly paying attention to the food you eat, you may find you the food you want to enjoy begins to change too, because mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food and what it brings for your body, throughout the process of buying, preparing, serving and enjoying it.
An important point to consider is that it takes on average 20 minutes for your brain to recognise that your satisfied/ full, and if eating is a mindless act that’s done on the go or in a rush your brain and body aren’t processing your food or adjusting itself accordingly.
By eating mindfully, you restore your attention and slow down, making eating an intentional act instead of an automatic one, and you are better able to recognise the difference between physical hunger and emotional food cravings.
1. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you're shopping.
2. Come to the table with an appetite— but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling up quickly instead of enjoying your food.
3. Start with a small portion, and see how you feel as you go, instead of assuming how much you will eat. When we slow down to eat, we feel fuller on less.
4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. You can silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food.
5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you're cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to colour, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them.
6. Take small bites. It's easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn't full. Put down your utensil between bites is a common strategy for eating more mindfully.
7. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.
8. Eat slowly. If you follow the advice above, you won't bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with others, and especially don’t have a tv, or phone or distraction to take your mind away from the moment.
And don't forget the importance of family meal times - sitting down together for meals (whether it's family, friends or colleagues) can not only encourage and model mindful eating, it improves mood too!
Social eating becomes a time for sharing the day, de stressing and improving communication.
Whilst I completely understand that life can become hectic ( we are a family of 5, and everyone of us has our own commitments, sports and hobbies to get to in the evenings) studies have shown that consistent social meal times throughout childhood lead to improved happiness levels in adulthood.
And lastly, I would remind you that it's normal to not eat 'perfectly' and that however you choose to incorporate more mindful eating into your life, your body will thank you for it.
Harrison, M. E., Norris, M. L., Obeid, N., Fu, M., Weinstangel, H., & Sampson, M. (2015). Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 61(2), e96–e106.
Eisenberg ME, Olson RE, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Bearinger LH. Correlations Between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-being Among Adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(8):792–796. doi:10.1001/archpedi.158.8.792
Oxford Economics, The Sainsbury's Living Well Index. https://www.oxfordeconomics.com/recent-releases/the-sainsbury-s-living-well-index