Often when working with nutrition, a lot of attention is paid to what, when and how much to eat in order to achieve the goal: to be healthy, to lose weight, to gain weight. Usually the general rules are simple: eat enough vegetables, don’t forget complex carbohydrates, drink water, and watch the variety of foods. However, this all works as long as there is motivation.
Recently, nutrition experts are increasingly talking about another way to achieve goals: without external control and rules of eating. It’s called mindful eating. It is based on the idea that the body intuitively knows what it needs. All that remains is to be attentive to its signals and notice them in time.
What Is Mindful Eating?
The concept of mindful eating originated in mindfulness, a practice of mindfulness that is based on the precepts of Buddhism. It seeks to bring attention to the present moment and the absence of judgment of all that is going on.
A mindful approach to eating helps us understand the thoughts, feelings, attitudes and physical sensations associated with food.
Often one awareness of a learned pattern is enough to trigger change. For example, once you notice that you keep eating even when you are full, you can begin to change this habit: put on half a portion, ask the waiter to wrap the rest with you, warn your grandmother to put on one less cutlet. This helps to significantly improve one’s diet without making drastic changes.
Mindful eating practices help to reconnect with the sensory and physical needs associated with food. As a result, it becomes easier, for example, to choose smaller portions of high-calorie foods not because of external rules and restrictions, but intuitively.
Conscious eating can be understood as:
- Paying attention to the color, smell, taste and texture of food.
- Absence of distractions (TV, smartphone, online casino games, book, etc.)
- Understanding the signals of hunger and satiety – the skill of listening to physical hunger signals and eating only until you are full.
- Distinguishing between physical and emotional hunger.
- Coping with guilt and anxiety about food.
- The skill of noticing the effects of food on your physical and emotional well-being.
- The ability to chew your food slowly and thoroughly.
What Are the Benefits of Mindful Eating?
There are many factors that influence our eating habits: habits from childhood, cultural traditions of the country and city, and advertising. It seems that someone always knows for us what we should eat to stay in shape or prepare for the beach season. This is a huge piece of information baggage, which is always with us, whether we want it or not.
That’s why knowing to eat more vegetables and whole foods isn’t enough to make dietary changes. Eating habits over the years have been memorized, automated, and moved into the “autopilot” category. To change your approach to eating, you need to carefully examine all of these habits, reflect on them, and figure out how they work for you.
As a result, mindfulness and attention will help you make choices based not on control tools, external rules and recommendations, but on personal experience and your body’s needs.
It’s not likely to work right away. At first, mindful eating requires a lot of attention and involvement, but the result – perfect eating habits just for you – will surely be worth it.
Top 4 Principles of Mindful Eating
Here are seven core principles of mindfulness that form the basis of mindful eating and other practices. They were developed by John Cabatt Zinn, professor, founder and teacher of mindfulness, and adapted for mindful eating by Joseph Nelson.
Often even before we start eating, we fall into thoughts-judgments about food, about ourselves, or about our relationship to food. “This is healthy,” “this is bad,” “this food has too many calories,” “I’ve never liked pumpkin, probably won’t this time either,” etc.
In mindful eating, the first task is to start noticing that we have certain expectations, judgments, and attitudes about food. And then learn how to start eating by putting those expectations and attitudes aside.
It is a necessary quality to eat consciously. Imagine how much of it it takes to eat slowly and carefully instead of eating lunch on the run and with the phone in his hands.
This principle will help add curiosity to try some new foods or rediscover familiar flavors. Or, conversely, to notice that the product you eat day in and day out is not something you like very much.
Trust in Yourself and Your Experience
Trust is said to be the result of being aware of your path and accepting it for what it is. And accepting one’s experience and path in eating implies that our path doesn’t have to be like someone else’s at all.
Understanding this puts the focus back on how we feel about food instead of checking with what others are doing, and helps us feel more and more in control of our bodies and their needs each time we eat. For example, sometimes it means skipping a meal and sometimes it means eating a double portion.