With our day to day lives getting increasingly busier, eating can become more of a task than an enjoyable part of our days. I don’t know about you but this leads to me pretty much inhaling the food I have in front of me. Although this is time saving and sometimes unavoidable, there are many times where we mindlessly consume food, often unnecessarily. We are so accustomed to eating in this way that even when we have the time to enjoy a meal we often don’t.
Think about the last meal you ate, what was in the meal, what did it smell like, what did it taste like, did you take time to eat it, did you notice all the different flavours and textures?
Or that cheese platter you ate with your friends, what did you eat, were you hungry to start with, did you actually want to eat it or were you grazing without thinking, did you stop when you were full?
I can put my hand up and say that I don’t remember a lot of the things I ate from the cheese platter last weekend! In the next couple of paragraphs you will find tools to implement to ensure you are building habits that are congruent with your goals. These practices make up what we call – intuitive or mindful eating.
Mindful eating is the practice of being present and fully attentive at eating occasions and helps us to slow down, listen to our bodies and enjoy food more. This helps us to understand why we make the choices we do which leads to higher levels of satisfaction and gives us more opportunity to recognise our fullness cues, and make conscious choices which can prevent overeating.
Here are our top tips for mindful eating, I recommend trying a couple next time you are going to eat:
Set aside time to eat
Sometimes eating food on the run is unavoidable but it is important that when we have the time to sit down and eat we actually do it. Taking time to slow down and enjoy your meal doesn’t mean you have to set aside an hour just to eat but taking 10 minutes rather than flying though your meal can have a huge difference on how you feel after eating. Next time you go to eat, I want you to ask yourself the following questions: what is in this meal, what are the different flavours I can taste, what are the textures? This will help you to be more in tune with what you are eating and can also make the eating experience so much more enjoyable.
Listen to your hunger cues – are you actually hungry or just bored?
Two of the most common reasons we hear for why people eat unnecessarily are boredom and emotions. Next time you want to eat but are unsure whether you are actually hungry or if it is just emotions/boredom, follow the 20-minute rule: Drink a glass of water and wait 20- minutes. If you are still hungry after 20 minutes, have a light snack and reassess.
Have you ever sat down in front of the TV or been on your phone while eating only to look down at your plate and realise it’s empty and you have no clue where food has gone. Having this distraction means we aren’t engaged with the food we are eating and can end up causing us to eat way more than we need. I don’t know about you but when this happens to me I’m usually disappointed that the food is gone and I reach for something else. Not only did I probably eat more than I needed to initially, I then look for additional food and this isnt always a healthy choice either.
When you next have a meal, turn off the TV, put down your phone and just enjoy your meal.
It may seem simple but taking time to chew your food is super important when we are eating. Along with other things on this list, chewing slows down our eating and gives our body’s time to register how much food we have consumed and kick start our fullness cues. Multiple studies have found that increasing chewing time increases self reported fullness levels and decreases total daily food intake.
Plus you’d be surprised how much more you can taste with a little more chewing.
Stop eating when you feel full
Whether you are still eating because the food is yummy or just because it is on your plate, if your body is telling you it is full, listen to it and STOP EATING. It might be ingrained into us to finish our plates and not waste food but it is important to remember your body isn’t a rubbish bin so don’t treat it that way.
Serve up controlled portions
If you are someone that struggles to stop eating when you are full or just picks at food because it is there, this one’s for you. When you are making your meal, serve yourself up a set portion, put any leftovers away so you don’t pick at them later and stick to your serve on your plate.
You’ve probably heard this before but it is super important to stay hydrated throughout the day to prevent overeating. Often we can confuse our thirst signals with hunger and then consume food unnecessarily, so by staying hydrated across the day we prevent hitting this point and reaching for food or having to play catch up with water.
Written by JCN Nutritionist @morganholland14