What do you think of when you hear the word mindfulness? Meditation? New age hype? Sitting for hours tied up like a pretzel? Many people misunderstand the concept, the practice and the benefits of Mindfulness.
Have you ever gotten out of the car and thought- I can’t remember the trip here? Do you ever get to work and the wonder if you left the garage door open? Or put down your car keys and then can’t find them again? These are but just a few examples of what happens when we are NOT mindful in the course of our everyday life.
Mindful Eating can reduce how much you consume
Life can get pretty busy and it is natural for our mind to plan, prepare, rehearse and problem solve when we are engaged in activities that have become habitual for us. In a sense, this is operating on automatic pilot. Mindfulness is the exact opposite of this.
Whenever there’s something that you do automatically, that has become a habit, you stop paying attention to it. Now this has happened with food. How often have you watched a movie and before the previews are over the whole tub of popcorn is gone? And you barely even tasted it- as you were focused on what you were watching.
Unfortunately, rather than becoming a mindful eater many of us have become mindless eaters. When you don’t pay attention to what you put in your mouth you don’t get any satisfaction from it. And the portion size then becomes defined by the packaging – so we eat until the packet is finished or the tub is empty.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of being fully aware of what you are experiencing, so being aware of your thoughts but not getting caught up in them, being aware of your emotions, but not being driven by them, and at the same time being aware of your surrounding and your and environment.
So, in a sense, being as aware of your inner experiences as your outer experiences, without judging your experiences.
So mindful eating is simply eating with awareness without judgement. Awareness of eating the sandwich without judging eating the sandwich, awareness of eating the muffin without judging eating the muffin.
Awareness without the judgment.
So, why would you want to eat in a more mindful way? There are lots of benefits.
- Mindful eaters eat less
- Mindful eaters are more satisfied with their food
- Mindful eaters have lower BMI’s
- Improved concentration and memory
- Increased creativity
- Increased life satisfaction
- Improved task effectiveness
Mindfulness has also been used to successful manage illness such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and many more.
Be aware of your hunger hormones
Mindfulness can also be used to have more awareness around your hunger hormones such as ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when you are hungry. Leptin kicks in about 20 minutes after you are full, to tell you that you are full. Leptin is kind of nature’s practical joke on us humans.
Ghrelin and Leptin creates subtle signals within the body to tell us when to eat and when to stop eating. But when you’re eating mindlessly and just inhaling the food, you’re not paying attention to those signals.
Eating in a more mindful way means that you actually pay attention to when you are truly hungry and when you are actually truly full. When you are more aware of these signals then you can make a different choice.
Are you a slave to food cravings? See here for advice on how to fight those urges.
Be attentive to what foods help and what hinder
The other aspect of being a mindful eater is becoming more aware of how food affects you. Here’s where you take what the research says and you test it out for yourself.
Test out a Paleo or Mediterranean diet and pay attention to how your body feels before and after a meal.
So, have the brownie. Have it with awareness, but without judgment and then notice how you feel afterwards. And then make a decision about whether or not you want more of it.
Notice how it feels like when you have a salad or when you have a lot of carbs for breakfast. Notice what happens to your energy levels.
Pay attention and notice how food sits with you. Do you feel bloated or lethargic after certain foods? Do you feel energised and satiated after certain foods? Use mindfulness to guide future food decisions. Listen to your body’s signals.