What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is simple. It’s paying attention to JUST EATING: not reading, texting, watching TV, talking with others. There's another name for it as well: Intuitive Eating. The way you practice mindful eating is by focusing on your food, enjoying your food, taking your time eating and chewing, and listening for when your stomach says you have had enough.
Expand your concentration on your food
When I eat mindfully I like to also concentrate on what it is I enjoy about my food. Is it the taste? the smell? the texture?
I ask myself questions like: where am I tasting this in my mouth; what side am I chewing on; how long am I chewing?
It can also help to cut your food into smaller pieces and make sure you are chewing completely. The other good aspect about making smaller pieces is that it takes longer to eat; it's more relaxing and it gives your stomach a chance to tell you when you've had enough to eat!
You can also think about all the people who were involved in bringing this food to your dish. From the farmer, to the company that made the farm equipment, transported it, packaged it, sold it in grocery store.... on and on. You will amaze yourself if you really get deep into that thought.
Eating mindfully can become a spiritual practice. It makes you realize how interconnected we all are and how we depend on others. I think that Covid-19 was a lesson like that!
Mindfulness is One Thing at a Time
Meditation is mindfulness in each moment when are sitting and practicing. When you meditate, whether you focus on your breath, a candle or body sensations you are focusing on that one thing at a time. Your brain can really only do one thing at a time, although we’ve been fooled to think that you can multi-task and do many things. Your brain actually cycles between paying attention to the different activities or thoughts you are performing, and in reality it takes longer, you make more mistakes and don’t do any of the things as well as if you did it alone!
Yoga for the Stomach
When you practice yoga your mind is focused on feeling your body and breathing. That's how you get the most benefit from the practice. That makes mindful eating like practicing yoga for your stomach!
Eating Chocolate Mindfully
I had a friend who once commented that he never saw anyone take so long to eat a small piece of chocolate. And it’s true! When I was on a chronic diet in my past life, I didn’t want to waste eating anything that didn’t taste good. And since I wasn’t eating a lot of food, I wanted to make it last longer. So, when I was going to have that treat of chocolate, I made it last by breaking it into small pieces. I’d put in on the tip of my tongue and let it start melting. Then I’d move it around my mouth keeping my mind on where I was tasting it, the texture, what color it felt like, what aspects of the chocolate I loved the most. As you see, I could probably write a booklet on the taste of chocolate and why I love it so much. It was like doing mouth yoga and then stomach yoga when listening for signs that I had enough.
Not Wasting the Taste
If the phone rang while I was eating chocolate, they could WAIT until I finished! And no, I was NOT going to rush! I love Trader Joe’s big bar of Belgium chocolate because it breaks into small squares. And I break those square into smaller pieces. And NO, it’s not because I’m dieting – because I will NEVER DIET AGAIN. It’s a waste of effort – and you are probably at a point in your life where you understand this, because you are reading on this site! All those years of restricting and starving ended up making me gain weight each time I was fooled into trying a new and better diet.
Your Brain Changes the Way You Perceive Taste
And by the way, did you know that as you are continuously eating a particular food, your brain actually makes it not taste as good as it was when you first started eating it? Think about this: if you are a coffee drinker, the first sip in the morning tastes the best, correct? And then as you're drinking it, you get less of a delight as you get to the bottom of the cup.
Now, I am NOT telling you to eat less food or be on a diet. But what I’m trying to explain is this: enjoy what you eat. If you just stuff it into your mouth mindlessly, you’re not going to enjoy it that much, and more likely to OVER-eat because you’re not paying attention to your stomach’s feeling of satiation. The slower you eat, the more your stomach has a chance to tell you when to stop eating because you’ve had enough. And that way you don’t have to use some artificial one size fits all portion control size like those worthless diet plans use! Eat mindfully, eat intuitively what you like and what’s good for you, and until you’ve had enough.
But if you’re eating something you dislike just because you think it’s good for you, it’s probably NOT good for you! That’s what the famous Dr. Deepak Chopra says! Good food can turn toxic in your system when your mindset is saying “yuck!”
What Mindful Eating is NOT
Then there are the misconceptions about what mindful eating actually does….
Problem 1: So many of the mindful eating gurus are thin that you might think that this is a new diet –
Mindful eating is NOT a diet. Some people lose weight, some people GAIN weight and some people stay the same while eating mindfully. If anyone tells you that you will lose weight eating mindfully, they are trying to sell you something and not telling the truth.
Problem 2: People are confusing mindful eating with "clean eating" or eating "good foods".
This is EXACTLY what mindful or intuitive is NOT. Dieting and convincing yourself that there are bad and good foods is what makes you desire them and overeat when your inhibition is lowered. The beauty of Intuitive eating is that you allow yourself to eat ANYTHING you want. Once you know you can eat it whenever you want, that food loses power over you!
Problem 3: If you still are unhappy about your appearance
and want to lose weight you may unconsciously be cutting back on the amount of food you eat. That will have a negative effect on your metabolism because dieting is stressful for your body.
Dieting alerts your body to the fact that it’s getting less food- and to prevent you from starving it AUTOMATICALLY slows down your metabolism, and makes you feel lazy to conserve calories! It also puts your body into a state of stress!
Problem 4: If you are stressed, mindful eating goes out the window
Mindful eating takes practice- just like meditating. In fact, mindful eating is a form of meditation- focusing on one thing at a time. So many people in the west say they “can’t” meditate. But the truth is, it takes time and practice to be able to maintain your mind’s focus.
Practice Mindful Eating
Mindfulness is a practice. Even monks who have been meditating for years have "slips" when they get distracted by another thought. The most important thing is to be accepting and gentle with yourself. When you realize you're thinking about something other than your focus, just say: "that's ok, I'm going back to my practice." Don't get frustrated or angry with yourself.
There are some days when you’re great at it, and others where it feels like it’s next to impossible to keep mindful! And paradoxically, the days when it’s hard are the days when you need it most: when you are under stress. As with learning any new task, it takes time and practice.
Start slowly- for just a few minutes. Build up to 5 minutes. But commit to do it EVERY DAY. At some point you’ll find it’s enjoyable and getting easier. Having a mindful practice transfers to other aspects of your life. But without a stress relief practice, being able to stay mindful when you’re eating and preventing yourself from going into a stress eating session and binging is HARD!
And you know, you can also transfer this mindful attitude to other things in your life. When you’re out on a walk, be there completely. Don’t talk on the phone – notice and appreciate the beauty of your environment. Stop and smell the roses along the path. It’s a real stress reliever to live mindfully, in the moment. It actually makes life much more enjoyable, and stress free – which makes you happier and healthier!
Mindfulness Increases Your Will Power
Mindful eating is a meditation practice that teaches you will power. That is one of the most valuable assets you can have in all aspects of your life. It’s the ability to make a decision and stick with it.
I don’t mean the kind of will power to say “no” to dieting or eating a cookie or dessert (because I know that dieting doesn’t work in the long run). I mean being able to eat a cookie or two and NOT eat the entire box because you've enjoyed what you had, eaten it slowly and realize that it was enough.
Having will power means that even though you want to buy something outrageously expensive, that you can control your spending and not put yourself in debt. Having will power means that although the guy is incredibly handsome and coming on to you that you don’t cheat on your partner. Having will power means that you do the things you commit to! These are just some of the ways that having strong will power can improve in your life.
If you can teach a dog willpower- you can teach yourself!
Having will power means although something is stressing you out you can find a way to calm yourself down. Having will power in your life can vastly improve your mood and even your sleep.
Stress Eating and Mindfulness
Mindful eating does not address the problems of stress eating! That’s why you need to have a go to method of dealing with stress- to STOP stress eating BEFORE it starts! If you get my report: “STOP Stress Eating Forever” you’ll be well on your way to preventing weight gain from emotional eating. Get it now and read it – and let me know your favorite and most effective method.