Mindful Eating

5 Habits of Mindful Eating

Are you struggling with losing weight?  Are you wanting to eliminate stomach issues, headaches, fatigue , brain fog, joint aches and pains, etc?

Eating the correct foods can often eliminate these symptoms.  When you eat foods that your body does not react well with, it can result in a wide variety of symptoms:  weight gain, fatigue, joint pain, stomach bloating, and much more.  

When you eat the foods that are right for your body you regain energy and vitality, while also typically eliminating stomach issues and joint pain, among other things.

However, even though you want to feel better and want to change what you eat; it can be a struggle.  As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach I have found that mindful eating is one tool that can help.

What Is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a simple method of becoming hyper-focused on the present moment, and being aware of your senses while eating food. It can help manage eating habits, and help you to feel better about their body.

It is not about counting calories, or tracking macros (carbohydrates, fat, or protein), and the focus on mindful eating is not about weight loss, although it is proven to help with losing weight. The intention is to help you to understand and enjoy the food that you eat, and remove stresses associated with overeating unhealthy foods. Mindful eating can be a fun way to make meal times social, or a time to reflect and savor the moment as a solo experience.

  • Some of the key benefits of Mindful eating include:
  • Reduced gas and bloating after meals
  • Reduced binge-eating
  • Reduced stress-eating and anxiety
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved self-control around foods
  • Improved nutritional intake
  • Improved weight loss results
  • Increases energy

Here are 5 powerful habits of mindful eating that you can put into practice today:  

Habit 1: Try ‘The Raisin Exercise’

The raisin exercise is a good starting point for mindful eating. It’s a sensual food experience that helps tune sight, touch, smell, and taste; becoming fully aware of the moment. This exercise is designed to introduce your senses into the act of eating, helping you savor and experience the foods you eat.

Give it a try: Take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb.

Sight: Take time to really focus on it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention—imagine that you’re an alien from outer space, and have never seen anything like this before in your life. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the shape, color, texture, and any imperfections.

Touch: Move the raisin around between your fingers, feeling the texture. Try this with your eyes closed to enhance your sense of touch. Is it hard, soft, sticky, dry? Does it make a sound as it moves between your fingers? Notice what you are feeling about this object.

Smell: Hold the raisin near your nose. Inhale the aroma and notice how your body reacts.

Taste: Place the raisin between your lips and just hold it there for a few seconds. How does that make you react? Move it into your mouth, but don’t chew yet…is there a taste? What’s happening inside your mouth? How does that make you feel?

Finally, slowly begin to chew, noticing what each bite feels, and taste like. Move it around your mouth. Chew the raisin into mush before you swallow. How does it feel as the raisin travels to your stomach?

Sense how your body as a whole is feeling after you have completed this exercise.  Practice fully experiencing the food that you eat.  

Habit 2: Just Ask “Why?”

The human body creates many prompts to tell us when to take action. One of these prompts can be described as a ‘rumbly stomach’ or ‘hunger pangs’, which tells us that we are hungry, and our body needs more energy. If we don’t respond to the natural ‘hunger’ prompts we may experience low blood sugar levels and feel unwell. Because hunger is a physical feeling, we can satisfy the prompts easily with any type of food source.

However, things become complicated when our psyche gets involved. Psychological hunger, as it is known, pushes us towards snacking and overeating. It comes from the emotional desire to eat, with no physical signs that your body needs energy. This is associated with cravings, boredom and emotional eating.

Research suggests that boredom is the most common reason for psychological hunger. Why do you think movie theaters sell popcorn and other snacks? To entertain you through the boring parts of a movie!

But with the help of behavior change and mindfulness, we can fight back. The act of removing yourself from the boring situation that prompted the desire to snack, will satisfy your psychological desire to eat. This can be as simple as going for a walk, changing the playlist or asking yourself ‘why do I want to snack?’.

Try this simple habit:

• When you feel like a snack, fill a glass with water and drink it.

The act of walking to get a glass of water, and drinking the water to satisfy the craving, will help you become more mindful of the prompts around snacking.  In addition, many times we think we are hungry but we are really just thirsty.

Habit 3: Slow Down

After you start eating it can take up to 20 minutes for your body to decode the signs of fullness. Slowing down when consuming food will allow enough time for your gut and brain to communicate. This will also help reduce overeating, and aid in better digestion.

Here’s a few tips for a more satisfying feed:

Set a timer – Before you begin dinner in the evening, set a timer for 20-minutes. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and try to take 20-minutes to eat your meal. Relax, and focus on your food.

Pause – If you find it difficult to sit down and make a meal last for a whole 20 minutes, put your fork down between each bite. Swapping the fork for chopsticks can help you slow down, too. If you still struggle to pause, leave the table to get a glass of water. Or step outside and take three deep breaths, then return to your meal.

Chew for 20 – Chewing breaks down food into smaller pieces. This aids in better, easier digestion – making us feel fuller quicker. In the first 5-minutes of your meal, take smaller bites than usual and try to chew 20 times before swallowing.

Habit 4: Remove Distractions

Whether it’s wolfing down a burger in the car or munching on popcorn while watching YouTube on your lunch break, distracted eating is common. A review of 24 studies by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that distracted eating encouraged people to consume more food throughout the day, and led to a poor relationship with eating.

Applying the mindful eating principle, we can avoid the distraction trap. Try one of these simple habits when eating to assist in a distraction free eating experience:

  • Turn the TV off.
  • Turn off your phone or out it onto airplane mode.

Focus on what you are eating 

Habit 5: Predict the Future

Mindful eating can help you understand the types of emotions that surround your relationship with food. Being able to visualize how we might feel after a meal, before its happened, can help us connect better with the food we eat, and avoid any negative feelings. 

Before you start eating, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will eating this food evoke any emotions? If so, which ones?
  • Why do I think these emotions are surfacing? 
  • Am I eating to satisfy hunger or cope with a specific emotion or issue in my day? 
  • Will this meal feel nourishing? If not, why?

The goal of this activity is to become more aware of your emotional responses to food and develop a better understanding of how feelings can affect how we eat, not just what we eat.

If you are struggling with maintaining positive eating habits, you can also talk to a professional Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. 

Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches support clients in figuring out where to start the change process and how to make sustainable shifts to achieve their wellness goals. In addition to supporting clients with specific dietary and lifestyle goals, Health Coaches empower clients to choose health-promoting behaviors that work for them. We raise awareness and offer support as clients move on their own terms toward the greater health they want for themselves.

Posted In - Diet