Mindful eating – an approach that enables you to recognise and change eating behaviours by learning to regain control over how you feel and your approach to meals.
Why we should be mindful about the food we eat?
It can be easy to go through our day to day activities without stopping to think about our diet and the food we are eating, we often squeeze in meals between jobs or sit down in front of the TV to eat our evening meals after a busy day at work. This may lead to us eating more, becoming out of touch with our hunger and ‘mindlessly’ eating foods that leave us feeling unsatisfied. Which in turn can all lead to weight gain.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is an approach that enables you to recognise and change eating behaviours by learning to regain control over how you feel and eat. It can help you to enjoy and feel satisfied with the food you choose. Mindful eating means being fully aware of what you are eating and how you are eating it. It is a simple idea which has been shown in clinical trials to help you to think more carefully about what you choose to eat and how to notice the thoughts, sensations and feelings that take place while you are eating. Essentially you are paying more attention to the food you are eating and how you are eating it.
Where do I start?
Start by thinking about your day to day eating habits, you might find that certain triggers may be because:
- You felt really hungry
- You were bored
- You felt like you had to eat it because you were offered it
- You were feeling emotional or stressed
- You enjoy eating junk food and it is available in your home
- You tend to think about other things when eating
- Even if you know a portion is too large for you, you eat all the food on your plate.
Your change for the week
Firstly, spend a few days working out what your triggers are, we also have a few questions for you to answer which may help you think about how you approach eating.
Once you have an idea of your triggers then you can start to tackle them and make changes. To help you with mindful eating we have split eating behaviours into four sections.
- Disinhibition: This is when we tend to overeat in response to a certain situation, here are a few tips to help you manage how much you eat.
- Research has shown that if we use large tableware we tend to fill it with food, try to use a smaller plate or a side plate for your meal as a way to eat smaller portions.
- Try serving yourself smaller portions than you usually would and see if you still feel hungry after eating it.
- When you are eating a food you really enjoy, try to eat it slowly so you enjoy every mouthful.
- Even if you are eating something that you love, try to stop when you feel full.
- Then you are out with friends, focus on your own meal and don’t think about what they are ordering.
- Especially when eating out, even if everyone else is having a dessert think about if you really need or want one.
- If you are craving foods have a glass of water or a healthy snack instead.
- Don’t snack between meals, but if you do want to eat something have fruit or nuts instead of something unhealthy.
- Drink a glass of water about 30 minutes before a meal, as it can help you stop feeling hungry.
- If you notice that you eat a meal very quickly, rest your cutlery and don’t put food onto your fork until you’ve finished your last mouthful.
- If you are eating out with friends try to eat at the same pace as them so you don’t rush through your meal.
- Take small bites and really focus on the taste.
- Emotional eating: This is when we overeat in response to our emotions.
- Especially when we are emotional we can crave unhealthy snacks, which in turn can make the situation worse and make you feel lethargic. Try to stay away from unhealthy foods if you know you crave them when you are not feeling yourself.
- If you tend to overeat when you are stressed try doing exercise instead to help with relieving your stress.
- Stay away from junk food, like crisps and chocolate, and do not have any in the house for you to snack on.
- If you have eaten something unhealthy think about how your body feels afterwards.
- If you are emotionally eating, ask yourself, what is really bothering me? Or what am I really hungry for?
- Don’t reward yourself with food
- Could you put off eating for 5, maybe 10 minutes. Then reassess and see how you feel.
- Ask yourself what you really want, and think about how you’ll feel after eating it.
- Awareness/external cues: This is when we really focus on what is going on around us and how it can influence our eating habits.
- Before reaching into your cupboard or opening the fridge take a few moments to think about what you want to eat and try to work out how you are feeling
- Try to notice the individual flavours in your food
- Think about how your stomachs feels after eating something
- Be aware of how your body is feeling after a meal, did the food make you feel lethargic or sluggish, if so, could you swap this food for something else next time?
- Try not to just eat food because it is there or offered to you
- If you feel like you are putting on weight, try to eat a little less than you usually do
- At the end of the day think about the food you have eaten, have you made any unhealthy choices, if so could you swap that food for something else the following day?
- Try to have a wide variety of foods, and lots of fruit and vegetables
- Plan your meals and write a shopping list each time you go to the supermarket so you do not buy unnecessary foods.
- Distractions: This is when our day to day activities can influence our food choices
- Don’t rush through a meal, take your time and eat slowly.
- Try not to think about other things when you are eating
- Studies have shown that we tend to eat more food if we are distracted by the TV. Try not to eat in front of the TV, focus on the meal in front of you and enjoy every mouthful.
- Try to eat with your family or housemates in the evening so as not to eat in front of the TV.