This post was written by Dr. Susan Wnuk, Clinical psychologist and wellness facilitator.
Mindful eating is about creating a new relationship with food and your body rather than a type of diet. It involves paying attention to your body's signals of hunger and fullness, your own preferences and knowledge, and your own history and experience. Mindful eating involves paying attention to all your senses while eating, including the taste, appearance, aromas, and physical sensations. Over time, practicing mindful eating helps you to make emotionally balanced choices about food.
10 tips for practicing mindful eating:
1. Take the time
Set aside time to practice. Even short periods like 5 minutes can go a long way. It will help you develop the ability to understand what you are thinking and feeling.
2. Pause before eating
Before taking the first bite, tune into your physical signals of hunger and fullness. Rating these on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not hungry, and 10 being very hungry, can be helpful. Pause during eating as well. This can provide you with information about how much to eat and when to stop eating.
3. Slow down and notice
Try eating more slowly and pay attention to all the sensory aspects of eating. Notice your physical sensations, thoughts and emotions, and practice returning your attention to eating when you become distracted.
4. Patience and persistence
It takes time and practice to feel the benefits of mindful eating. Trying it once, or even for a week, is usually not enough.
5. Be open to whatever comes up
Mindfulness helps you to become aware and accepting of whatever is going on in the present moment. Sometimes you may feel relaxed after practicing mindfulness. Sometimes you may not. Both are okay. You are practicing mindful eating as long as you bring your attention back to the experience of eating.
6. Be willing to let go of judgment
People who struggle with their weight often have many negative feelings about themselves. Sometimes the people around them are critical and judgmental too. Mindfulness is an opportunity to notice those judgments for what they are-thoughts or opinions, not facts-and to come back to what is happening in the present moment.
7. Do just one thing
Mindfulness involves paying attention to one thing in the moment. This means focusing on eating instead of eating in front of the TV or while reading.
8. Combine your inner wisdom and outer wisdom
Outer wisdom is information based on nutrition research, professional knowledge and other peoples' experience. This includes the many guidelines about the kinds of foods you should and should not eat, the nutritional value of certain foods, and when to eat them. Inner wisdom is your hunger and fullness cues, your own experience and preferences. It is your actual experience of eating and how you feel physically and emotionally after eating.
9. Value quality over quantity
Many people have been raised to believe that they have to eat everything on their plate. Mindful eating helps us develop an appreciation for the quality of food. Quality involves freshness, nutritional value and taste. It also means giving yourself permission to leave food on your plate when you have had enough.
10. Learn your personal triggers for mindless eating and overeating
Mindful eating helps people to become more aware of the types of food, situations, and emotions that trigger overeating. You can use this information to make better choices about how to handle those triggers.
To learn more and begin your journey with mindful eating, join us on our upcoming retreat from October 26 to 29, 2018.
Dr. Susan Wnuk