by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 28th March, 2019
There are reasons why we're struggling so much with issues like obesity in modern times. These include easily obtained unhealthy foods and a willingness to consume them simply because they are convenient.
However, by slowing down and learning to eat mindfully, you can start to consider whether or not your body really even enjoys those foods. You'll also be able to learn what foods your body does enjoy, what makes you feel good and how you can create a healthy relationship with food.
We're covering all of that and more here, so read on!
As the name implies, eating mindfully means paying attention to what you're eating, when you're eating and why you're eating. It's a great way to observe your relationship with food and make changes where they are needed.
In modern times, passive eating has become such a common thing. After all, who doesn't enjoy their meal while watching TV or scrolling through their phone? While it might make the process more entertaining, it can also keep us from paying attention to what we are consuming and how much.
Part of eating mindfully includes doing away with these kinds of distractions so that you can actually pay attention to the food you're consuming and how you're feeling. When you're less distracted, you can gain a better idea about how much you enjoy what you're eating and when your stomach is full.
Eating mindfully also includes monitoring your body. This means not only checking in with yourself to learn when you're actually full, but also really asking yourself whether or not you're enjoying the food you're eating.
We have a tendency to eat what is on our plates without paying a lot of attention to it. As a result, we can start to notice that some of the things we're eating aren't serving much of a purpose. We absent-mindedly eat things like chips, potatoes or other additions with our meals that we might not be that excited about, nor do we need quite so often. Eating mindfully gives you the chance to sort through what you'd normally eat without thought.
You can receive some serious benefits from learning to eat more mindfully. These can include both physical and mental benefits like gaining a healthier relationship with food, losing weight or gaining it if that's what your body needs, and learning a great deal about yourself in the process.
Rather than eating whatever you think you should eat, or simply want to eat, you'll have the chance to really think about what food is doing for you. You'll also start to notice your habits. Do you always include a starch with dinner even though you aren't the biggest fan? Do you find yourself often snacking when you aren't hungry?
With the chance to observe the way you handle food, you'll be able to see your habits more clearly. From that point, you can start to mold them into habits that are more enjoyable and effective for your body.
One of the things you may notice when you're paying closer attention to your food is that things like desserts and junk food don't make your body feel that great, especially in higher amounts. This can lead to balancing out those foods a little better, and treating them as the treats they are.
While we tend to want more of those tasty treats, like candy, ice cream and cake, as often as we can get them, what you may learn is that you can actually enjoy them more when you have them less often, or in smaller amounts.
When you can take the time to think about the foods you're eating, it's easier to ask yourself whether or not you're actually enjoying what you're eating. For example, think about those potato chips that are so easy to reach for when you're bored, engaging in emotional eating or just feel like a snack.
Do they taste good? They very well might, but do they make you feel satisfied or are you hungry again a few minutes later? Do you find that you're relying on the empty calories rather than providing some real nutrition for your body? These are all worth considering.
When you start to understand the differences between nutritious and empty calories, and how they make your body feel, you may be likely to consume the latter less often. With more nutrition, your body gets more of what it needs and you'll likely cut down on calories going into your body.
With that can come weight loss. Even before you get into nutrition, you will likely start to pay closer attention to when your stomach is full, stopping your meals sooner and sparing yourself the discomfort that comes with overeating. As a result, your weight will likely come down over time.
Things like binge eating and other eating disorders are often due to a seriously disrupted relationship with food. On the other hand, mindful eating is a key way to rebuild your relationship with food little by little. In time, you can have an easier time giving your body what it needs.
Naturally, this process can take longer given the mental struggles that can come with eating disorders, but using eating mindfully as a tool can be very useful for returning to physical health, whether that means gaining weight in a healthy way or losing weight through learning how to avoid bingeing.
Eating mindfully isn't something that needs to be difficult. You don't need to buy any detailed rulebooks, tools or subscribe to any programs in order to do it efficiently. It simply means slowing down and focusing more on what your body needs than what your mind wants.
While it may not sound like a lot of fun, learning to eat without your phone, TV or other distractions is very useful for really getting the full value from your meal. Take the time to really taste your food and think about what you like about it, or what you may not.
In addition, consider what the food is offering your body, or what it isn't. By doing this, you can start to weigh out the value of the food. Maybe that means realizing that you actually really like vegetables, or that potatoes are okay, but the prospect of eating them isn't the most exciting to you.
Think about how what you're eating makes you feel. In time, you'll be likely to discover that as delicious as junk food is, there's a reason it goes by that name. Ultimately, it is tasty junk that doesn't really do much for your body.
Things like sugar can make you feel ill, cause mood swings and more as a result of the blood sugar spikes it causes. On the other hand, nutritious foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats can leave you with more energy and a clearer mind.
It's useful to take the time to think about why you're eating. Is it a reaction to negative emotions, or boredom? Is it just because it sounded good, or were you genuinely hungry? When you start to notice these things, you can make more informed choices about when to eat and when to address issues in other ways.
At the very least, you can choose to have healthier snacks during those times when you know you're eating, but not actually hungry. Keep in mind that this isn't something to punish yourself over, just to work on adapting into healthier habits.
The idea of mindful eating isn't something that you should try to use for overhauling your entire life at once. In most cases, large changes to your habits just aren't sustainable. Instead, making small changes and habits that build up over time is the way to go.
Begin with one meal. It can even be one of your smaller meals or a snack. Whichever meal you know will be most likely to allow you to create a lasting habit. Set aside all your distractions and ask yourself a few questions about what you're eating. How does it taste? How do you feel after? In addition, check in every few bites to determine whether or not your stomach is satisfied.
When you've started to learn more about how certain foods make you feel, you can begin adapting your grocery trips accordingly. Buy the foods that are satisfying and kind to your body in the largest amounts, and those that are delicious but not as friendly in smaller amounts.
Remember that what you buy is what you'll eat, but cutting out treats altogether is not typically something that works well. Instead, try to make changes to the sweets you choose. Maybe try fruit rather than candy, or at least buy smaller amounts to ration out.