Have you ever been halfway through a “fun-sized” bag of chips before thinking hey, I’m not even hungry! Or perhaps you’ve taken a stroll through the Byward Market and caught the scent of one of its French bakeries- and before you know it you’re inside chowing down on croissants. These situations during which we are distracted while eating can be coined as “mindless eating”, and can prevent us from enjoying our meals.

For a quick exercise to determine if you are eating in a mindless or distracted way, think back to your last meal. Can you clearly remember how it tasted? How about how it smelled, or the texture of it? If you’re having difficulty remembering the details of the meal, there is a chance that you were not eating as mindfully as you could have been.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating means that we bring mindful awareness to our eating experience. We are deliberately paying attention to our meal. We notice external factors such as the aroma of our meal, the texture of our food, and the flavors of each bite. Mindful eating also means that we are aware of internal thoughts and emotions, and we are thinking about why we’re eating –are we truly hungry, or are we eating for other reasons such as habit, boredom, stress or social obligation?

Research shows that mindful eating has some very real benefits – studies show that mindful eaters have a lower BMI that non-mindful eaters, and were able to maintain their weight over the long-term.1 Mindful eating contributes to a greater intake of vegetables and helps us to eat more slowly. Mindful eating also increases positive body image, optimism and self-esteem in university students.1 It can also help us to appreciate all that our body does for us, rather than focusing too much on our appearance.

4 Easy Tips to Eat Mindfully

  • Use your senses. Make a point to truly look at your food – take note of its color and appeal. Notice the texture of your food, whether it be the crunch of an apple or the soft ripeness of a peach. Enjoy the aroma that your food is giving off and the sound it makes while it cooks. This will provide a more satisfying eating experience – we will have truly enjoyed our food with all of our senses, rather than with just taste.

  • Eat slowly to give yourself time to truly savor and enjoy your food. Mechanical digestion of food begins in the mouth, and eating more slowly gives our bodies more time to prepare for digestion. It also gives our bodies more time to realize that we are satiated, which can help prevent us from overeating. Need help to slow down your eating? Try putting down your utensils between bites, and make sure you swallow your food before picking them up again.

  • Eat without distraction. Put away the electronics during mealtimes so that you can focus on your meal. It can also help to plan out your mealtimes to prevent mindless snacking throughout the day. Instead, use meals as a way to connect with family and friends – eating meals together with loved ones creates a positive and nurturing eating experience.

  • Connect with your food. There are many ways to become more connected with what we eat.For example, you can grow your own potted herbs and vegetables, try a new recipe that excites you, or learn more about where your food came from. Knowing the story behind the food on your plate will help you to eat with more mindfulness and appreciation.

Getting Started

Try it at home! Hold a small piece of chocolate in your hand. Focus on it, and imagine that you have never seen a piece of chocolate before. Take a good look at it: let your eyes explore every part of it. Explore how it sits in your hand: notice the texture and feel of it. Smell the chocolate beneath your nose and with each inhalation, take note of the aroma of the chocolate. Place the chocolate in your mouth without chewing and let the sensation of it on your tongue sink in. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and experience the taste that comes through. Without swallowing yet, notice the taste and texture sensations and how they change moment by moment. Swallow the chocolate and focus on the sensation. Is there an aftertaste? How do you feel physical and emotionally? Take some time to think about the experience. This exercise will guide you through an episode of mindful eating.

We encourage you to try eating mindfully at your next meal. Have any questions about mindful eating? Email the Carleton Dietitian at AskADietitian@cunet.carleton.ca!

  1. Review Article Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review (2014) https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/review-article-relationships-between-intuitive-eating-and-health-indicators-literature-review/CBC03E81A54FBAAC49B2A8B2EC49631C/core-reader

Monday, November 5, 2018 in , ,
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