All the advice out there about how and what to eat can be overwhelming – and more than a bit irritating. In the midst of it all, you may have heard the phrase “mindful eating.” Mindful eating is learning to pay attention to the food you eat – with all your senses. Mindful eating involves paying attention to the experience, the taste, the smell, the texture, and being fully present while you eat. Mindful eating is a practice of cultivating awareness of your emotions, your physical sensations, and your thoughts while you are eating.
Sounds very Zen and spa-like doesn’t it? The concept of mindful eating may also sound like a fantasy and leave you rolling your eyes thinking, “There’s no way that would fit into my complex life.”
I get it. Life is busy, and mindfully savoring every bite we eat is not an option for most of us. That said, mindful eating is something you need to know about.
Without the right amount of mindful eating in your life, peace with food and freedom from overeating is impossible.
Mindful eating helps you avoid being triggered to overeat
Put quite simply, mindfulness means paying attention and being present in the moment. If you aren’t present in the moment, you’re more vulnerable to stress eating or emotional eating because you’re less aware of situations that trigger overeating or cues that you are being triggered to overeat. In difficult moments, you’re much more likely to react with autopilot behaviors and mindless choices, because you aren’t mindful or aware. You’re not in the driver’s seat.
Mindful eating allows you to make a choice
If you’re not fully present in the moment than you’re more prone to react in old, habitual ways rather than intentionally choose new, more effective behaviors. You can’t make a purposeful choice if you aren’t paying attention.
The act of considering, “What do I want to do here? What are my options?” requires mindfulness.
You can’t decide to choose a coping strategy to avoid stress eating if you aren’t mindful, nor can you make a decision to check in to see if you’re really hungry or if that craving means you need something else instead.
Mindful eating as well as mindfulness about a situation when you feel tempted to eat are great sources of power. When you are tuned in and mindful, you have the opportunity to make choices and decisions about your eating that benefit you. When you’re not fully mindful, it’s like being swept up in the current. You’re at the mercy of what’s happening to you, reacting instead of setting your own course.
Mindful eating enables you to fully enjoy your food, increases your satisfaction and allows you to feel full
When you learn to pay attention to your experiences of hunger, your feelings and thoughts, and your eating, you grow more able to identify your hunger and your fullness.
Mindful eaters are better at identifying when their “hunger” is really a sign that they need something else that isn’t food. They recognize fullness earlier. Mindful eaters eat less and report feeling more satisfied because they are fully tasting and experiencing the food they are eating. How much food do you “overeat” that you never fully taste or enjoy? It’s impossible to savor without eating mindfully.
Mindful eating is a tool you want in your emotional eating toolbox
Learning how mindful eating can help you be more effective with overeating and emotional eating is important. Deciding to adopt a 24/7 mindfulness goal probably isn’t answer. It’s impossible for most of us, impractical, and a set up for burnout or feeling like you’ve failed.
The key to integrating mindful eating in your life is identifying where it would benefit you most and the strategies that allow you to grow and strengthen your mindful eating muscles. Mindful eating is a practice, a skill that develops over time.
Take a look at your life and at your patterns of overeating. Where do you tend to eat mindlessly or on autopilot? What are the situations that distract you from your goals or when you walk away leaving overfull and feeling like you reacted instead of making a mindful choice?
Pick one situation to target and practice being more attentive and more mindful.
Mindfulness is a key piece of the puzzle.