Mindful Eating: What Exactly Is It? And What Are Its Benefits?
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These days, eating serves a lot more purposes than simply providing sustenance to our bodies. We often use food as a big part of socialization, a way to relieve stress (stress-eating) or a way to boost our mood. With the wide range of food choices available, many of us have a habit of eating without paying much attention to the quality and the quantity of the food we consume.
When we eat mindlessly, we end up eating much more than our body actually needs. Not only does this prevent us from truly enjoying our food, it can lead us towards obesity! Additionally, it can cause many other health-related issues too. In order to avoid these negative consequences, we ought to start practicing mindful eating on a daily basis.
But first, what exactly is mindful eating?
You probably already know that mindfulness is the act of focusing in the present moment. So, in a nutshell, mindful eating is simply eating while paying complete attention to the food we are eating - its flavor, its texture as well as feelings and sensations we experience while savoring it. As we develop a habit of mindful eating, we will be able to ponder and perhaps, answer questions like these:
- Why do we feel the need to eat at that particular time?
- What emotions are being triggered? Are we truly hungry or do we feel the need to eat due to other reasons?
- How does the food looks, smells, and tastes?
- How much do we need to eat before we start to feel full?
- How has food has been produced and prepared?
For many people, eating mindfully does not come naturally nor easily. It is a form of meditation which is unlikely to be mastered overnight. That said, we can certainly develop it as a habit gradually with committed practice and time.
Image credit: Chopra.com
Yoga can potentially help you to develop mindful eating in less time. The practice of yoga teaches you to slow down, move with the breath, and focus on each pose.These can be applied to eating too. Slow down, breathe deeply, and focus your attention on your food. Take a moment to savor each bite and notice the texture of the food. Feel how all of its flavors. You’d be interested to know that many yogis and yoga teachers alike maintain their health and stay fit as they cultivate a habit of mindful eating.Once you master this healthy practice, you too will be able to reap its health benefits and promote your overall wellbeing!
So what are the benefits of mindful eating?
1. It prevents us from excess eating
When you crave something to eat, it may not necessarily have anything to do with hunger. Once we become more aware of our eating habits, we’ll be more aware of the times that we crave food (and eat) without actually being hungry. Therefore, mindful eating can prevent us from overconsumption of food. It teaches us to eat when we are feeling hungry rather than a way of succumbing to other things such as boredom and stress.
2. It helps us to be more in tune with our body
Mindful eating allows us to be in the moment and be aware of the present thoughts, feelings, and emotions that may be triggered when we eat. We learn to pay attention to the body’s ‘cues’ which helps to avoid overeating, digestive woes and enables us to make use of our senses (taste, smell, feel).
3. It prevents binge eating
Mindfulness techniques can help to prevent us from developing binge eating disorder. Being mindful while eating allows to pause for a moment, think about your food, take deep breaths and eat consciously. It can also instill a healthier eating habit in binge eaters.
4. It encourages you to savor the food you consume
The most important part of the dining experience is savoring your food. Mindful eating encourages you to slowly chew your food while acknowledging all the ingredients and hard work put forth to prepare the delicious meal you are enjoying. In essence, you’ll learn to express gratitude for the food, respect the time consumed to prepare the dishes, and admire the flavors, the fragrant, as well as the textures of the food, making your mealtime more enjoyable.
5. It enables you to absorb more nutrients
Mindful eating encourages slower consumption of food which enables you to absorb more nutrients. When you are mindful, you will have a tendency of opting for healthier foods – those that encourage slower consumption and are rich in nutrients and water content. Meals rich in protein give a sense of fullness faster and, sipping water throughout meals can help to dissolve protein more effectively.
6. It teaches you better management of emotions
Often we avoid food or overeat when we are stressed, depressed or angry. Eating and not eating drifts you away from worries. Mindful eating is one of the healthier ways to cope up with unpleasant or negative feelings. It enables you to manage negative emotions through mindfulness rather than attempting to ‘fill the void’ with food.
Ready to instill a habit of mindful eating? Remember that a big part of eating mindfully is opting for healthier food choices. We can’t think of a better way where you can learn to do so than at a vegetarian culinary retreat!