Many people eat without awareness of what they are doing, maybe they are eating quickly or watching TV or looking at their phone. When we do this we often eat quickly and we don’t give a chance for our body and mind to tell us – this is making us feel crap or this is making us feel good. And from that, we don’t listen to our bodies either desire to have more of the good stuff or less of the bad stuff.
It seems to take about 20 minutes for the brain to register that you feel full and satisfied. Hence there was a theory that if you eat more mindfully, meaning you eat more aware of the experiences and sensations you are having, for example, looking at the food, thinking about where it came from, smelling it, putting it in your mouth and really tasting it – all this takes time. Several studies have shown mindful eating strategies might help treat eating disorders and possibly help with weight loss – people enjoy their food more and have less sense of struggle about controlling their eating.
Some techniques for mindful eating include:
- Being in the present – take 3 deep breaths before beginning to eat
- Enjoy your meal for what it is – don’t be distracted by other things. Be thankful for your meal. How lucky are we to have food! People die every day from hunger, and here we have it. Think about the food, how was it grown, how did it get here, how did you prepare it, how does it look, smell, taste, sound.
- Eat slowly and when you start to feel full, wait 10-20 minutes before eating anything else. Listen to your body, is it full? let it tell you “does this food feel good or does it make me feel bloated, tired and sleepy?”
Often when we are mindful we actually really appreciate the food we are eating. If we eat a whole bar of chocolate, and we are actually mindful of eating the whole thing, we will realise we feel crap, we feel sick, and bloating, and almost dirty and greasy. But when we eat something good, we feel light, satisfied and clear. This is actually really important to appreciate the differences because it may actually lead to rewiring in our brains. For example, if we have always associated chips with pleasure then our brain will simply want more of it to find pleasure. But if we actually have a different experience of chips, a negative experience, we eat mindfully and the brain and body go “o wait this sucks”, then it will form new associations, and we simply don’t want it as much. I see this all the time. People who start to mindfully eat tell me when they do practice this eating their old pleasure foods, they say things like “o it was so sweet it was horrible” “I never realised how much I don’t like chips”.
This is another skill that comes easier and more potent the more you practice. I don’t think you have to feel pressured to do it every meal. But perhaps just start with one meal a day.
Mindfulness apps and resources
Here is a list of apps, authors, books and resources you can check out for more information on mindfulness
Smiling Mind – App
Headspace – App
Author – Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn
Author – Dr Craig Hassed
Online Course – https://www.monash.edu/health/mindfulness
Mindful eating = https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/docman/fact-sheets/234-fact-sheet-mindful-eating
You can google these authors for their books and youtube videos as well.