Have you ever finished a candy bar and reached for another one, even though you were feeling slightly guilty? At the movies, do you feel disappointed when you realize your popcorn bucket is already over and it isn’t even the intermission yet? After eating your daily meal, do you feel miserable because you often overeat?
What are all these? You guessed it right – signs of ‘Mindless’ eating. Mindless eating is nothing but eating without putting a lot of thought in to what or how much goes in to your stomach. So how can you avoid it?
People eat in the funniest of ways. They eat in front of the TV, which makes them not notice the portions they are chomping down at all. They also eat while they drive, talk on their cell phones, while reading a book and even while working on their desk. They eat too much, they eat too fast and they eat without a thought. And that is what leads to being overweight. When a person doesn’t notice how much food they are eating simply because their brain isfocused on another activity, they miss the signal the brain is sending to the tummy stating ‘You are now full’. More importantly, people who eat mindlessly don’t enjoy food and often crave for more soon, simply because they haven’t yet felt ‘satisfied’ with the act of eating. And this is what gives rise to the need for mindful eating.
Mindful Eating: Changing the way you perceive food
Eating is a natural process. We eat to satisfy not just hunger but to also indulge our taste buds. But when we eat mindlessly, we neither address the hunger in the right way nor are we able to enjoy flavours of the food in the right way. Eating mindfully is nothing but eating with intention, giving food your complete attention.
It doesn’t only matter how much you eat, it also maters how you eat the food put in front of you. We eat not just with our mouth; but also our eyes, our nose and the need for giving complete satisfaction to all senses with the food we eat is important to stop unwanted cravings. Take the time to savour each bite, take in the aromas of the food in front of you and enjoy each morsel, chewing it well.
When you choose to practice Mindful Eating, you choose to understand the difference between just feeling full and gaining satisfaction and pleasure from your food. By practicing mindful eating, you will be able to achieve greater satisfaction with lesser quantities of food. If you have eaten a burger while you were working on a report, it won’t be very long before you crave something more because you didn’t quite have a ‘good experience’ while you ate and aren’t feeling 100% satisfied with your meal.
How to adopt Mindful Eating?
To lose weight and practice careful weight management, you need to understand how important it is to eat smaller portions. And not just eat smaller portions, but also enjoy them as much as you would enjoy an endless platter of your favourite foods. To be satisfied with the meal you ate means to be able to control cravings till the next meal. And for that, you need to practice these strategies for Mindful Eating that will help you truly enjoy your food a little better.
Step 1 – Recognize signs of hunger
If you are eating for reasons other than hunger, for example stress or boredom, you will never ever feel satisfied. These are psychological reasons that trigger a response that makes you crave food. So if you aren’t hungry, try and divert your attention by talking on the phone or going for a walk. If you are hungry, then plan on what to eat. And never wait until you are famished before you think of what to eat. If you are very hungry, your body will automatically crave for foods that are readily available, which are usually junk foods and packaged foods. Keep your body fed at regular intervals with wholesome foods which are mindfully panned for better weight management.
Step 2 – Eat without any guilt
Now you need to choose foods that will satisfy both your hunger and your cravings. Hunger comes from your stomach wanting fuel. And cravings come from your brain wanting to indulge in something. The two are very different. Today the society is so obsessed with ‘eating right’ that we often devoid our bodies of our favourite foods. Eating everything is not a bad idea, if you can practice portion control. And mindful eating is all about portion control. Don’t eat food you don’t like, because that will only mean you will not enjoy your meal as much and will soon crave for something forbidden, like a pastry or a calorie full cookie. Enjoy your food without guilt, but then plan it carefully.
Step 3 – Savour your food to feed all your senses
It isn’t just important to eat right portions, but also eat in a way that feeds all your senses appropriately for mindful eating. Set the table in a pleasant manner. By creating a good ambiance for your meal, you improve the satisfaction levels you derive from your food. Remove all distractions like TV or your mobile phone that keeps ringing. Give your complete attention to your meal, and enjoy it with the company of someone you like. Do not eat out of Tupperware sitting in front of the TV on your bed. This will only make you eat more and enjoy the food less.
Step 4 – Make eating an enjoyable experience
Even the meal should be visually appetizing. Enjoy the moment; notice the texture of food and the flavours coming from various spices. Make the effort to heat up your food to enhance taste and aroma instead of eating cold, pre cooked food stashed away in the fridge. The more elaborate an occasion you create out of your meal, the more are you going to enjoy it! And when you enjoy your food a 100%, you don’t need to eat big quantities to feel satisfied.
Step 5 – Saving the best for last is not the best idea
If the meal is elaborate and consists of many dishes, don’t save the best for last. If you do, you will end up finishing up the whole dish even if you are full. So start with your favourite, so that even if you feel full with just that you are not tempted to eat more. After you are done with the first helping, put your spoon down and take 2 whole minutes to judge whether you really want a second helping at all or not. More often than not, our brains are programmed to eat 2 helping of rice, or 4 slices of bread, even if we ate a big snack before the meal and might not even be that hungry. It’s simply that we are used to that ‘portion size’ because we assume that it takes that much food to satiate our hunger. But hunger is a variable….so why should portions be fixed? Don’t go for seconds until you have ascertained you want to eat more.
Step 6 – Look for reasons to not overeat
Before you force yourself to overeat simply because you love the food, pause to consider if you can actually eat the same food again when you are hungry next! If the meal is home cooked, you can eat the same for breakfast the next day. And if you are at a restaurant, you can take the leftovers back home and eat it later that evening. So, is there really a need to overeat, when you know you will only end up feeling bloated and sick later on? Once you ponder over these questions, you will come to the conclusion that over eating is never a good idea.
Step 7 – Even if you have overeaten, don’t punish yourself
It happens. Just remember how you are feeling right now and make a conscious effort to avoid this happening again. When we constantly overeat, we end up feeling sick and ruin the whole experience of eating. Do you really want to do that to your favourite dishes? Is that really how you want to feel when you get up from the table every day?
Practice these simple tricks to Mindful Eating, you will soon realize that it’s not only the ‘RIGHT’ and sensible way to eat food, but also a better way to enjoy food and build healthier eating habits.
- Art of mindful eating (dnaindia.com)