If you’re reading this, then you’re probably wondering how to stop overeating and start eating mindfully. Well, I’m going to first focus on showing you the benefits of mindful eating, which will help you develop a better relationship with food and your body.
The best way to think about mindful eating is to reflect on how you feel on the day of Thanksgiving.
Before the big meal, you may have had very little to eat. As you enter the kitchen, you smell the turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, salads, and other vegetables and fruits.
Is your mouth watering right now? Mine is.
Perhaps there is even a variety of desserts and pies waiting for you when you finish the main courses.
Then it’s personally my favorite time of the day.
You start eating!
Since you have had very little to eat all day, you may be so hungry, you are not really tasting the food, devouring the dishes, and eating faster than usual.
After the meal, you may feel stuffed, bloated, and quite uncomfortable.
Like me, you probably unbutton your pants and feel annoyed that you ate so much!
Although most of us don’t do this every day, we probably do often eat too fast. Especially after we skip meals.
Then when we eat, we are so hungry that we may choose unhealthier items and eat quickly.
This article will help you learn the benefits of mindful eating and how to get started so you can actually feel happier and healthy when you eat.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating (and drinking) involves focusing your attention on eating without being distracted.
To practice mindful eating you cannot look at your smartphone, watch TV, or talk to other diners.
I know, I know, you’re probably wondering whether there are actual benefits of mindful eating. We’ll get to that soon.
In the meantime, when you start eating mindfully, you are fully present in the entire experience of drinking and eating.
This includes chewing and drinking slowly. Sensing how the food smells and tastes.
You concentrate on the texture and temperature of the food and how the food makes you feel.
However, mindful eating is much easier to do when you are feeling hungry, but not famished.
New to mindfulness? Try these Simple Meditation Exercises You Can Do in 30 Seconds or Less.
Are you hungry or starving?
One of the most useful benefits of mindful eating is using something like the Hunger and Fullness Scale.
This scale provides you with different levels of hunger and fullness from 1 (exceptionally hungry) to 7. (overstuffed).
The best way to approach mindful eating is to actually not put off eating until you are at level 1 or 2.
Obviously, it becomes more difficult to concentrate on tasting and enjoying your food when you are this hungry.
Likewise, stop eating every couple of minutes to determine where you are on the fullness portion of the scale, and don’t keep eating when you are not hungry.
Basically, you don’t want to wait until you feel “stuffed.”
If you get to level 6 or 7, it may be due to the fact that you were extremely hungry when you first started eating. This will likely cause you to eat faster than usual and not taste your food.
When this occurs, it has been referred to as, “mindless eating.”
Try to stay within the 3-5 range of the scale Hunger and Fullness Scale: “hungry and ready to eat, to a maximum of not hungry feeling somewhat full.”
This will allow you to stay at the appropriate range to concentrate on the food’s taste, texture, temperature, and how it makes you feel.
All about your eating habits
Many of our habits are formed during childhood including what and when we like to eat.
Some unhealthier eating habits include:
- Eating too fast
- Always cleaning your plate
- Eating when you’re bored, anxious, sad, or angry
- Skipping meals, so that when you do eat you are so hungry, you eat quickly without really tasting your food
- Always eating high sugar content desserts after dinner
When you begin to change your habits to healthier eating patterns, you’ll also need to think about the following:
- What triggers you to eat unhealthy foods?
- How can you replace unhealthy eating with healthier habits?
- How can you reinforce healthier foods?
One of the best steps you can take in changing your eating habits is to avoid eating when you are not hungry.
Another is to try meal planning so that you have healthy foods available to you at all times.
The rule of thumb is this: don’t eat because the food is there, or you are tired, anxious, or feeling other emotions besides hunger.
It is best to eat when you begin to feel hungry, but don’t wait until you feel very hungry or “starving.”
Common triggers that influence us to eat when we are not hungry include:
- Seeing a favorite snack food, candy, or treats
- Smelling certain foods (e.g., baked goods)
- Watching or listening to a commercial for food
- Before or after a stressful meeting or situation
- Feeling bored or tired and thinking food might be a pick-me-up
When you learn the benefits of mindful eating and start practicing them, you will realize that food is not always the solution to a stressful or uncomfortable solution.
Instead, you will learn to listen to your body’s signals and pay attention to what you may need at that moment.
Need some suggestions? Here are 20 simple ways to take care of yourself.
How to replace mindless eating with mindful eating
To begin appreciating the benefits of mindful eating, you will focus not just on gobbling your food.
Instead, you will start learning to appreciate the taste, flavor, and texture of the food.
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When you practice healthy, mindful eating it will involve some of the following:
- Eat food and drink beverages slowly
- Taste your food and beverage, rather than devouring the food or gulping your drink
- Realize that you are not wasting food if you have not eaten all the food on your plate. You can always save it for another meal
- Don’t continue to eat or start eating if you are not hungry
- When you think about eating when you are not hungry, substitute a non-eating activity to do instead: drink a glass of water, take a 5-10-minute walk, or talk to a friend or colleague
You can also practice using the mindful eating checklist by using the letters, HH, TT, and SS, to help you
remember this list: Hungry, Healthy, Tasting, Texture, Slow eating, Stopped (when not hungry, don’t wait
until you are “full”).
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
Did you know that more calories and fat are eaten on days when people eat in restaurants compared to those who eat at home?
It’s because you’re more likely to eat higher-calorie foods in larger portions at restaurants than at home.
Research has demonstrated the benefits of mindful eating include:
- A reduction in fat and calorie intake
- Prevention of weight gain, despite the number of times people ate in restaurants
Among people with type 2 diabetes, mindful eating helps people improve their diets, helps with weight loss, and improves control of blood sugar.
Most importantly, mindful eating helps people who struggle with binge eating, emotional eating, and reducing triggers for eating when people are not hungry.
Here’s what I’ve learned from practicing the benefits of mindful eating.
Instead of feeling guilty and stuffed from overeating, I feel happy and satiated. I appreciate the taste, texture, and flavor of food when I slow down and notice what I’m eating.
In addition, I’ve noticed that I tend to eat less because I listen to the cues from my body signaling that I am full.
Lastly, mindful eating has helped me acknowledge when I am actually hungry versus when I am turning to food as a comfort for something else that is bothering me.
I promise you that mindful eating will help you tremendously. Perhaps you can select just one meal each day that you eat mindfully without distraction?
Have you ever tried mindful eating? What differences did you notice when you stopped distracting yourself while eating? What works well and what tips do you have for others? Do you think there are benefits of mindful eating? Please share your stories and comments below.