We all have at some point eaten an entire bag of cookies, a large bag of chips, several candy bars in one sitting, or similar. This may happen when we are stressed, bored, or when we’re just hungry waiting for lunch or dinner only to fill up on unhealthy foods.

The occasional slip up is normal and to be expected. Problems arise when over-indulging becomes habitual because it can seriously affect your health by impeding proper nutrition and filling your body with unhealthy foods.

This is when ‘mindful eating’ can make the difference by limiting overeating or binge eating and aiding you in listening to your body and its needs. Mindful eating does not qualify as a diet regime. It does not involve menus, recipes, or food planning. It is more of a style of eating.

Mindful Eating

What Is Mindful Eating and How Does It Work?

The point of mindful eating is to be aware of what you are consuming and if you are hungry when you feel the urge to eat. It calls for extra awareness when you decide to eat a meal or snack. Research suggests that mindful eating techniques can contribute to a reduction in emotional eating or binge eating. This may result in weight loss, however gradual. For some, using mindful eating techniques can eliminate the need for dieting because it is less strict than diets.

Mindful eating requires that you concentrate on what you are eating and listen to your body when it says it’s full. It is liberating as you should feel less restricted and creates a better relationship with food.

Emotional Eating or Binge Eating Triggers

An important step in being a mindful eater is identifying what triggers unhealthy eating. Common reasons for unmindful eating may include:

The Environment

If we are in a situation where we are surrounded by food, this can trigger undesirable eating. Imagine not being hungry, when an advertisement appears and all of a sudden, we have a craving.

Our Emotional State

Stress, boredom, sadness, and numerous other emotions can influence eating habits whether by causing us to eat more or ignore hunger signals and eating less. It’s important to determine if you are particularly stressed or if an emotion or situation is triggering unmindful eating. Physical exercise, yoga, or meditation are all tools that aid in destressing.

Being distracted

Distraction is a leading player in unhealthy eating. Research suggests that people tend to overeat when they are distracted. We do not control what and how much we eat when we are distracted.

Mindful Eating Tips to Employ

Some basic behaviors will aid you in becoming a mindful eater with an increased awareness of what you eat, when you eat, how, and how much you eat.

Eat a sit-down meal

Eating in front of the television, in a car, or while you are involved in another activity are all examples of being a mindless eater.  Eliminate distractions. Eating is not a multi-tasking activity. Studies indicate that when you engage in a sit-down meal, you are more aware of the quantity of the foods you are consuming. You also can concentrate more on your food and enjoy it more.

Limit portions

Use smaller portions and smaller plates. Consider using a separate small plate for every food item you eat. You can also opt to use two plates, a larger one and a smaller one. Place the food you think you’ll eat on the larger plate and then use it as your serving plate. Take small servings from the larger plate and place them on your smaller eating plate. Cut your food into bite-sized pieces as well as seasoning or other before you begin eating. When you’ve eaten everything on your smaller eating plate, verify if you are still hungry and want more. Repeat with smaller servings until you can comfortably say you have had enough.

Bathe in Your Senses During Meals

Food is not merely something to shovel down in the hopes of relieving hunger pains. Enjoy the aesthetics of your food, how it is presented on a plate, its aroma, and the texture of the food in your mouth. Take small bites and chew slowly and mindfully. The pleasure of eating should not come from quantity but from quality. You can also establish an amount of time for eating food and make sure that it lasts for the entire amount of time decided.

Listen to Indications of Hunger

While you are eating, slowly and deliberately, pause while doing so to ask yourself if you are already satisfied. We often eat large portions of food because we eat too quickly without pausing. Often taking time to eat can reveal that we are satisfied with smaller quantities of food. It is important to connect the concept of being satisfied with no longer feeling hunger. If satisfaction is based on quantity or emotional sensations, we will not be eating mindfully.

Eliminate Candy and Unhealthy Snacks

Check your home and office to evaluate if these locations will aid in mindful eating or prove to be obstacles. Look for readily available food like candy dishes, packages of cookies, cakes, chips, or similar unhealthy snacks. This can help our children avoid packing on the pounds and dealing with obesity so early in their lives.

Healthy snacks like fruit and nuts should be the easiest to reach for. Place a dish of healthy snacks in your home or a selection in a desk drawer. Keeping a bowl of nuts or fruit, or  protein chips within reach will facilitate choosing a snack. It’s also a good idea to position one at the entrance to your home. When you or family members leave, it will be easier to grab a healthy snack and take it along eliminating the need for vending machine snacks or fast-food breaks.

Analyze Lifestyle

Several other factors can negatively influence how we eat. Stressful work or personal situations can impact the hormones that command your appetite. Being tired, as well as having an insufficient amount of sleep can also negatively affect how we eat and above all how much we eat. Program meals and healthy snacks before stressful situations arrive and before tiredness sets in.

Shop for Your Health

Avoid shopping when you are hungry, so you don’t engage in impulse shopping. Opt for fresh produce as opposed to processed and sugary foods.

Mindful Eating Exercises to Aid in Staying Focused

Bad habits are easy to fall back into especially when distracted. Here are several uncomplicated exercises to try if you are eating mindlessly to help yourself regain focus.

Slow Your Eating or Snacking

Whenever you eat something, you need to concentrate on what it is you are consuming. Eating should never be rushed even if only snacking. If slowing down is problematic, some experts recommend we use our non-dominant hand. Unless you are habitually ambidextrous, this technique will slow your lunch or dinner.

Be Aware of the Tastebud Challenge

The first bite of your favorite food tends to taste the best. This is because our taste buds have an entirely new sensation to grapple with. Once the first bite is enjoyed, tastebuds rapidly become accustomed to that flavor. We often tend to overeat because subconsciously we instinctively try to reproduce the enjoyment of that first bite.

To control overeating, at some point, interrupt and eat a different food with another kind of texture and flavor. You might even choose to select a food served at a different temperature. Then return to the first food that you tend to overeat and verify if it tastes different and if it continues to satisfy you. You may be able to break the cycle.

Close Your Eyes

Believe it or not, closing your eyes while eating can help. Hunger is heavily influenced by our vision. Closing your eyes briefly as you enjoy a bite of food, can reduce the temptation to clean your plate of everything on it or consume an entire package of snacks. That momentary pause can help you focus on the food you are chewing and how it’s impacting the environment and verify if you feel full or not.

When experiencing a lack of control when eating, it may not only be a question of eliminating stress, distraction, or the availability of food. There may be an underlying health issue that requires attention. Consulting your primary medical care professional can be a first step. Other professionals that may be able to help you include nutritionists, dieticians, or therapists to aid you in eliminating unhealthy mindless eating.

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Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

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