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Have you ever finished a big slice of chocolate cake and wished you just had a bite? Have you ever felt guilty for ordering fries and burger and wished you just had a vegetable salad? Have you ever felt disappointed after finishing your favourite treat because it didn’t seem to satisfy you? If yes, you must be unconsciously eating.
Many people eat whilst they work, drive, and even walk. They eat whilst chatting with a friend, watching a movie, or arguing with someone over the phone. Some tend to eat too fast. Although it may sound like a time-saving idea, eating whilst doing something else, or whilst rushing, prevents us from enjoying the food, no matter how good it tastes. Because our brain could only focus on one thing at a time, we miss the subtle signs of fullness, making us eat more than we had to.
A lot of people focus on the type of food to eat but pay little attention on how to eat them. Eating is a pleasurable activity that is why it is often abused. But by learning about mindful eating, enjoying your food and getting satisfied is achievable, without resorting to overeating.
Mindful Eating – What is it?
Mindful eating simply means paying attention to what we eat and how we eat it. Sounds easy right? Yet, many people couldn’t make it a regular habit. Mindfulness is not a new concept. It is in fact a very old technique that was popularised by the Buddhist monks. Mindfulness is a process by which we deliberately pay attention to what is happening both inside and outside our body without judgement or criticism. Mindful eating is being aware of all sensations we feel or experience with every bite we take. This includes the texture, smell, taste, flavour, and even the sound of the food as we eat it.
Mindful eating also involves paying attention to our mind and keeping it focused on the food we are eating. For example, it is easy to get carried away with a plethora of thoughts whilst having a sumptuous dinner. Usually, our attention is exclusive on the food during the first and second bite. But as we carry on with few more bites, our thoughts are likely to start shifting to other things like the upcoming party in the office, the reports needed to be finished tonight, the bills that must be settled before weekend, and so on. All these things prevent our mind from focusing and ultimately enjoying the act of eating. So after finishing a big plate of pasta and we didn’t feel satisfied, our tendency is to have some more.
Simple Strategies to Practise Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a skill which necessitates time to master. Here are some helpful strategies that will help you stay mindful whilst you eat.
Eat without distractions. Avoid taking your lunch to your desk and eating whilst working or browsing the internet. If you eat with distractions all around you (such as telephone, TV, computer), you won’t be able to give your full attention to the food and to your body. Whilst this kind of eating habit may keep you full, it isn’t likely to keep you satisfied.
Eat in the right place. You want to feel comfortable whilst you eat so you can pay attention properly. At work, try hard to eat only in the pantry or cafeteria. At home, avoid eating in the living room or in your bedroom.
Savour every bite. As you lift the fork, relish the aroma of the food, and as it enters your mouth, savour its taste and texture, including its sound! Is it soft, chewy or crunchy? Does it taste too sweet, bland, or just right? Notice the colours and how the food was placed on the plate. Appreciate every bite you take.
Choose the food you enjoy. If you notice that you are not enjoying the food you chose, look for something else. Eating food you don’t enjoy is more likely to make you feel dissatisfied. Or, upgrade your cooking skills. Maybe your food only needs some twist and additional ingredients to taste better!
Set the table well. Creating a nice ambience lets you enjoy the food even better. This is why restaurant owners don’t care spending a lot just to beautify their stores.
Eat only when you are hungry. If you eat when you’re still quite full, you may not enjoy your meal completely. If the craving doesn’t come from hunger, you won’t feel satisfied either. A good way to find out if you’re really hungry or you’re just craving for food is to drink one glass of cold water. If the ‘hunger’ goes away right after, it means it is just a craving. Otherwise, it’s time to feed your tummy.
Don’t wait until you’re famished. Don’t skip meals because it increases your tendency to overeat. Nutrition experts recommend eating regular meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and light, healthy snack in between each.
Pay attention to what you feel after eating. If you happened to overeat, don’t punish yourself and avoid feeling guilty. Use it as a guide to improve your eating habits and make the succeeding mealtimes more enjoyable and satisfying.
Living in the ‘moment’ can greatly enhance the quality of your life and health. Once you get used to mindful eating, it will be easier for you to incorporate mindfulness in all other aspects of your life.
Best wishes, Steve
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