Mindless eating is the habit you might recognise most when you’re at home: eating while watching your latest box set on the TV is a classic example. Your eyes are on the screen and you’re automatically eating from a bag of popcorn, crisps or chocolate.
The same can happen at work – do you ever find yourself staring at your computer screen and eating simultaneously? Or maybe you’re taking a break and your eyes are glued to your phone as you eat. Because you’re concentrating on your screen, you’re not paying attention to what you’re eating or how it tastes. So, not only are you missing out on savouring the flavours, you could be at risk of eating more than you should.
How can mindful eating help you?
Mindful eating is the exact opposite of mindless eating. Mindfulness has been proven to be really helpful for a number of conditions. It's all about developing a sense of awareness and of being in the present moment. And the possible benefits of applying this practice to your eating habits are plentiful.
Mindful eating may help you to:
- develop a healthy and conscious relationship with food
- increase your enjoyment of food
- stop eating unnecessary calories
- lose some excess weight and maintain a healthy weight
- identify eating habits and patterns that you want to change
- gain control over what you eat and why you eat
How to eat mindfully
These are my top tips for getting the most out of meals and your interaction with food and drink, wherever you are.
1. Chew your food slowly. Not only will this help your digestion, you feel more satisfied with your meal. Much of the time we eat past the point of fullness because we aren’t recognising when we’ve had enough. That’s why we can sometimes feel too full, bloated and uncomfortable after meals.
2. Get to know your food. Have you bought it from a chain eatery or did you make it at home? Knowing exactly what’s in your food and where it comes from helps you engage with what you’re eating. Try making yourself some food at home to bring to work; you’ll notice the difference.
3. Register the taste, texture and smell. This very much applies the principles of being mindful. Whatever you’re eating, consciously engage with the texture of it in your mouth, the smells, colour and presentation of it.
4. Give your food your full attention. Try eating without reading or looking at a screen. When was the last time that you did this? I challenge you to try it and give your meal your undivided attention.
5. Limit temptation. Pre-portion your food so you’re not tempted to eat too much. When you’re busy and you need to eat on the go or meet a deadline, it can be tempting to skip a meal or grab a convenient snack. But rather than let those moments catch you out – have foods to hand that are healthy and pre-portioned. That way you’re not going to accidentally eat too much without realising it. One of the best things I’ve seen is the pre-portioned fruit snack packs you can get in the supermarket. They are especially good for more exotic fruits like pineapple and mango.
6. Are you full yet? Being mindful when eating focuses your attention so you can register when you’ve eaten enough and are satisfied. Slowing down and learning to recognise when you’re full can help stop weight gain, indigestion and a bloated, sluggish feeling.
7. Check you're really hungry. When you feel hungry, just take a second before getting something to eat. Ask yourself this question: ‘Am I hungry?’ Really think about it – if you’re unsure, try waiting 20 minutes. Then ask yourself again to see if you’re really and truly hungry. Feel a snack attack coming on? Think about when you last ate something. If it was less than three hours ago, it might not really be hunger. Maybe you just need a break to stretch your legs, or get a drink of water instead.
8. Take the time. My final point is really important: I urge you to make time for your meals. They are essential to your health and wellbeing. I know what it’s like to be busy and on the go, but making time for regular meals will keep you energised throughout your day, fuelling your body and mind as you go.
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