1) Body & Brain, Playing catch up
Slow down baby, eating too quickly means eating past full. Often ignoring your body’s signals letting you know when your body says its full.
Slowing down is one of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need for nutrition. Our bodies send its satiation signal around 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we unconsciously overeat. However, if we slow down, we give our bodies the chance to catch up to our brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount. This is where something like mindful eating can come into play, we all know how much I love mindfulness and this is just one reason why; by consciously being aware of what your eating and taking the time to really taste what your having will make such a difference. It's like when you go to an expensive restaurant and you really love the food, we often will eat slower and really enjoy every mouthful of food - well normal eating shouldn't be any different, chewing each bite 25 times (or more) or setting your fork down every now and then between bites and enjoying some meal time conversation to slow you down.
I'd love to know what are some ways you can slow down eating and listen more deeply to your body’s signals - leave a comment below!!
2) Knowing your body’s hunger signals
Are you responding to your body's needs or are you responding to emotion?
Often we listen first to our minds, for example eating when we're bored - we're not actually hungry but we eat because our brain tells us we have nothing better to do. Like many mindfulness practices, we might discover more wisdom by tuning into our bodies first. Rather than just eating when we get emotional signals, which may be different for each of us, be they stress, sadness, frustration, loneliness or even just boredom, we can listen to our bodies. Is your stomach growling, energy low, or feeling a little lightheaded? Too often, we eat when our mind tells us to, rather than our bodies. True mindful eating is actually listening deeply to our body’s signals for hunger. Ask yourself: What are your body’s hunger signals, and what are your emotional hunger triggers?
3) healthy eating environments
Eating alone and whenever/ wherever vs. Eating with others at set times and places
Another way that we eat mindlessly is by wandering around looking through cabinets (come on we've all been here), also by eating at random times and places, rather than just thinking proactively about our meals and snacks. This slows us down for one thing, but prevents us from developing healthy environmental cues about what and how much to eat, and wires our brains for new cues for eating that not always ideal. (do you really want to create a habit to eat every time you get bored or when your sitting as your desk?) Sure, we all snack from time to time, but it can boost both your mind and body’s health, not to mention greatly helping your mood and sleep schedule to eat at consistent times and places. Yep, that means sitting down (at a table!), putting food on a plate or bowl, not eating it out of the container, and using utensils not our hands. Eating with others is also beneficial, not only are you sharing and getting some healthy connection in your life, but you also slow down and can enjoy the food and conversation much more, and we take our cues from our dinner partner, not over or undereating out of emotion.
When we put our food away in cabinets and the fridge, we also are more likely to eat healthy amounts of healthy food, so consider what’s around, where it is and whether it’s in sight. If we limit eating to kitchen and dining room, we are also less likely to eat mindlessly or eat while multitasking.
There are many reasons that the raisin eating it is such a powerful exercise, but one is that when we slow down and eat healthy foods like raisins, we often enjoy them more than the story we tell ourselves about healthy foods.
You don’t have to plan your food down to each bite, and its important to be flexible especially at special occasions, but just be aware of the fact that you might be changing your eating habits at different times of year or for different occasions ( for example, I can get into the bad habit of eating at my desk at work - which is a no no). And when you do plan ahead, you are also more likely to eat the amount your body needs in that moment than undereating and indulging later, or overeating and regretting it later.
Advice is to not shop when hungry. A psychological effect known as “moral licensing” has shown that shoppers who buy kale are more likely to then head to the alcohol or ice cream section than those who don’t. We seem to think that our karma will balance out and we can “spend” it on junk food, or other less than ideal behaviours.
4) Eat food not stories
Comfort food vs. Nutritionally healthy food
This is another tricky balance, and ideally we can find nourishing foods that are also satisfying and comforting it can just take a bit more effort... but in my opinion it's worth it. Thinking back to that first mindful raisin. Did that seem appealing before you tried it? There are many reasons that the raisin eating it is such a powerful exercise, but one is that when we slow down and eat healthy foods like raisins, we often enjoy them more than the story we tell ourselves about healthy foods. As we practice eating healthier and a greater variety foods, we are less inclined to binge on our comfort foods, and more inclined to enjoy healthy foods, ultimately finding many foods mentally and physically satisfying as opposed to just a few. Now I actually look forward to making foods which are super healthy and full of all kinds of bright colourful fruits and vegetables
5) the life cycle of food
Where food comes from vs. thinking of food as an end product.
Unless you are a hunter-gatherer or sustenance farmer, we have all become ever more disconnected from our food in recent years. Many of us don’t even consider where a meal comes from and the process behind it beyond the supermarket packaging. This is a loss, because eating offers an incredible opportunity to connect us more deeply to the natural world, the elements and to each other (there are some amazing podcasts from hunter-gathers to listen to also, leave me a comment below if you would like to know the names of them).
When we pause to consider all of the people involved in the meal that has arrived on your plate, from the loved ones (and yourself) who prepared it, to those who stocked the shelves, to those who planted and harvested the raw ingredients, to those who supported them, it is hard to not feel super GRATEFUL and connected. Reflect on the cultural traditions that brought you this food, the recipes generously shared from friends, or brought from a distant place and time to be a handed down in the family.
As you consider everything that went into the meal, it becomes effortless to experience and express gratitude to all of the people who gave their time and effort, our friends or ancestors who shared recipes and even the beings who may have given their lives to a part of creating this meal. With just a little more mindfulness like this, we may begin to make wiser choices about sustainability and health in our food, not just for us but for the whole planet.
6) Pay attention to your plate
Distracted eating vs. focused eating
Multitasking and eating is a recipe for not being able to listen deeply to our body’s needs and wants. We’ve all had the experience of going to the movies with our bag full of popcorn, and before the coming attractions are over, we are asking who ate all of our popcorn. When we are distracted, it becomes harder to listen to our body’s signals about food and other needs. With your next meal, try single-tasking and just eating, with no screens or distractions besides enjoying the company you are sharing a meal and conversation with.
So while mindful eating practices may be what we think of when we look back on a mindfulness course we attended, the reality is that we do live, and eat, in the real world which is a busy place. However, we can take the insights gained from our mindfulness practice and implement them slowly until they become habits - slowing down, listening to our bodies, doing one thing at a time, making even small rituals, and considering all that went into our meal on a more regular basis and bring more informal mindfulness to our daily meals.