Why I Practice Mindful Eating (And Maybe You Should To)
When was the last time you ate a meal with intention? When you sit down for a meal, are you truly present in that moment? How often do you think of the food you’re eating not in terms of whether it’s ”good” or “bad” for you, but rather as something that improves your well-being?
Typically, there are two ways we eat. Firstly, you eat what you want, when you want it. There isn’t much thought put into this way of eating. You sort of absentmindedly consume food without thinking much of it. The other way we tend to eat is determined more by diet restrictions or health concerns. This practice forces you to be hyper-aware of what you’re consuming. You deem certain foods to be either good or bad for you, and you base your meals around those ideals. Now, neither of these styles are necessarily bad for you. You can put as much or as little thought into eating as you want. But, just ask yourself, “Does my style of eating generally benefit me in a positive way and make me feel good about myself?”
On our podcast, Just a Taste, we recently spoke with author, health psychologist, researcher, and President of The Center for Mindful Eating, Dr. Lynn Rossy about mindful eating and how it can improve both one’s own well-being as well our community as a whole.
What is Mindful Eating?
Simply put, mindful eating is eating with intention. It not just about what you are eating, but also the physical act of eating and how that influences your experience and general well-being. The Center for Mindful Eating states, “Our relationship to food is a central one that reflects our attitudes toward our environment and ourselves. As a practice, mindful eating can bring us awareness of our own actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations, and insight into the roots of health and contentment.” By listening to your body, and being present in the act of eating, you can start to create a new relationship with food where you understand what it is that your body enjoys.
Practicing mindful eating takes quite a bit of trial and error. In an article posted on Healthline titled “Mindful Eating 101 – A Beginner’s Guide”, they offer some advice for things to think about in order to eat mindfully, including:
- Eat slowly and limit any distractions
- Listen to physical hunger cues and eat only until you’re full
- Distinguish the difference between true hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating
- Engage all your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors
- Learn to cope with guilt and anxiety about food
- Eat to maintain overall health and well-being
- Notice the effects food has on your feelings
- Appreciate your food
By slowly incorporating all of these into your routine of eating, you maybe able to start to become more mindful of the act of eating and understand your own emotional connection to food.
Why Should You Eat Mindfully?
Mindful eating can have many benefits. However, first and foremost, it is simply a way for you to connect to your body through meditative eating practices. By being in tune with your emotional and physical well-being, you can start to decide what foods and practices can positively affect you.
Mindful eating is often mistaken as being a fad diet, which in turn elicits the idea that the goal is to lose weight. However, the mindful eating movement is not at all concerned about weight loss – even though sometimes eating mindfully can result in that. The American Diabetes Association states, “[Mindful eating encourages people] to appreciate food rather than restricting it and starving. […] It encourages them to trust in their own decisions rather than being restricted by rules about what and when to eat. Mindfulness encourages practitioners to live fully in each moment and appreciate their life as it is.”
Another interesting benefit of mindfulness is its impact on the community (and environment). One of the steps in this practice is being aware of the ingredients you are buying, and whether or not that impacts your emotional well-being. Buying products that bring you joy often overlaps with products that are better for the environment and/or your community. Being mindful of the quality, source, and benefits of the items you buy may lead to you explore purchasing from local grocers or farmer’s markets. (Read our blog on sustainable consumers for more information)
It’s important to note that mindful eating isn’t about achieving perfection, nor is it for everyone. We all lead very busy lives, so being consistently mindful of everything you eat may not be possible for everyone. However, by incorporating some aspects of this practice into your daily life you can start to redefine your relationship with food and your body. As Rossy stated in our interview, it’s important to “visit yourself”. Check-in on your well-being. Figure out what is or isn’t working for you. And then make any necessary changes that will impact your life in a positive way.