We live in an epidemic of increasing obesity, eating disorders and an obsession with fad diets. Consequently, many people can’t stick to diet plans and develop unhealthy relationships with food. Fortunately, many people are developing a healthy relationship with food by tapping into the concept that they can eliminate emotional eating, stick to a meal plan and achieve weight loss with subconscious mind techniques. With mindful eating, you can practically eat what you want and lose weight or achieve any weight goal you have in mind! Read on to discover ways to stop emotional eating – could mindful eating revolutionise your life?
Below we delve into the research surrounding mindful eating, the benefits of engaging in it and also some mindful eating tips. Is mindful eating one of the ways to stop emotional eating? Are you a mindful eater? If you are one of those people desperate to break the hold food has on you, read on to find out more!
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a type of meditation that aims to heighten awareness of your emotions and physical sensations while being more present with your food. It involves being fully present and focussing on your meal as opposed to being distracted by the likes of TV or your abstract thoughts. If you already engage in mindfulness or meditation or perhaps even yoga, then the concept of mindful eating probably won’t be that alien to you.
All too common is the sight of people eating on the go, slouched in front of a TV picking mindlessly at food or eating al-desko (i.e. eating at your desk in work); all such scenarios mean people are not engaging with their food, which is why mindful eating is important.
Mindful eating targets the following behaviours:
- Emotional, external and binge eating
- Feelings of guilt and anxiety towards food
- Developing unhealthy thoughts and labels for food
It achieves this by:
- Distinguishing between hunger and non-hunger signals
- Rewiring thought patterns to replace automatic/subconscious thoughts towards food with more deliberate healthy thougths
- Encouraging slow eating with elevated focus and distractions removed
- Enhancing awareness of your senses towards the food, e.g. flavour, smell, texture, sounds
- Increasing awareness of the effect of food on you physically and emotionally
With regards to research, the concept of mindful eating is rather new; however, research on mindfulness-based interventions have been relatively positive in terms of treating unhealthy eating behaviours, such as binge eating, emotional eating and external eating (i.e eating in response to external cues, such as the smell/sight of food).
Some studies are exhibiting positive signs in terms of treating unhealthy eating habits associated with various diseases such as diabetes and obesity. In one study, a mindfulness-based intervention was pilotted on 10 obese individuals (mean body mass index of 36.9kg/m2 and mean age of 44 years) over a duration of 6 weeks with a 3-month follow-up. The results demonstrated significant reductions in weight, stress, depression, binge eating and impulsive eating.
That said, with the concept of mindful eating still in the infancy stage, there are some limitations to the literature, namely the limited study group which is primarily similar in terms of targetting white adult females. But don’t let that minor factor prohibit you from trying mindful eating to extinguish unhealthy dietary behaviours.
Mindful eating raisin exercise
So you want to find out if you’re a mindful eater? Well if you’re up for a bit of fun and an excuse to eat some of your favourite treats in the interest of learning, then you absolutely need to try the mindful eating raisin exercise, it only takes a couple of minutes – are you in?
- Ok, first grab a couple of raisins, sit down and place them on the table in front of you. If you don’t have raisins, use something similar, whether it’s a couple of skittles, candy or even a few squares of chocolate.
- Next, pick up one piece of food and eat it as your normally would. Once you’ve eaten it, take a moment to make a mental note of how it made you feel, how it tasted, how long you chewed it for and how many pieces you ate it in.
- Now pick up the second piece of food and hold it between your finger and thumb. Take some time to carefully observe the food as if you have never seen it before. Look at the shape, size, colour, grooves, shadows etc. Move it around in your fingers to feel the texture, apply some pressure to determine how hard or soft the food is.
- Recognise what the food is and think about any experiences or memories you have had with the food. Smell the food under your nose and identify if the food has any aromas. Pay attention to how this experience affects your mouth and stomach.
- Slowly bring the food up to your mouth. Are you salivating? If you are, your body and mind are in anticipation of food. Slowly place the food in your mouth. Without chewing, keep the food on your tongue for about 10 seconds and explore the tastes and feelings of having the food in your mouth.
- Now prepare to chew the food, take a bite or 2 and pay attention to what happens in terms of taste and texture as you chew it. Slowly chew the food until you are ready to swallow it. Then pay attention to it travelling down to your stomach, and take some time to reflect on how the exercise felt for both your body and mind.
- How does the experience compare to the time you ate the first piece of food?
- Did anything interesting occur or surprise you about the exercise?
- What did you observe when you were examining the food? Think of your senses.
- Did any memories develop about the food?
- What principles from this experience are you going to apply to eating in future?
If you swallowed the food whole on the first go, without even considering the food in terms of taste, smell, texture etc., then you’re not the only one. Don’t worry, there are plenty of books and tips for mindful eating; even just completing that exercise has probably taught you some of the core principles of mindful eating already!
Tips for mindful eating
- Eat slowly and remove all distractions from the area
- Engage all your senses to appreciate and be present with the food
- Think about how the food makes you feel
- Be aware of when you feel physically hungry and full
- Repetition is key – mindful eating works better the more often you practice it
- Sit down while you eat
- Serve the correct portions: Food portion control for weight loss and bulking – tips & gadgets
There are some excellent mindful eating books available, I’ve listed a handful that are almost guaranteed to lead to you to your goal for the long-term, whether it’s eliminating emotional eating, sticking to a meal plan or achieving weight loss:
- Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food
by Susan Albers PsyD
- Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung (audiobook/paperback/CD available)
- Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
There are, of course, certain fundamental principles that apply to anyone who is looking to eat healthy; this includes eating good sources of protein, nourishing your body with healthy fats and also regulating your sugar, hunger and energy levels with adequate healthy carbohydrates.
- Assists in developing a healthy relationship with food
- Mindful eating can help people sticking to a diet plan, whether the goal is weight loss, maintenance or lean gains
- Eating slow and without distraction are 2 fundamental principles of mindful eating
- Mindful eating is rapidly becoming a leading method of treating unhealthy eating behaviours
Have you tried mindful eating before or was the raisin challenge above your first introduction into it? Comment below on your experience and thoughts.
Bjarnadottir, A., 2019. Mindful Eating 101 — A Beginner’S Guide. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mindful-eating-guide [Accessed 27 March 2020].
Dalen, J., Smith, B., Shelley, B., Sloan, A., Leahigh, L. and Begay, D., 2010. Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 18(6), pp.260-264.
Nelson, J., 2017. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectrum, 30(3), pp.171-174.
Pike, A., 2019. The Science Behind Mindful Eating — IFIC Foundation. [online] IFIC Foundation. Available at: https://foodinsight.org/the-science-behind-mindful-eating/ [Accessed 27 March 2020].
Smith, L., 2017. Mindful Eating Exercise. [online] Dukeintegrativemedicine.org. Available at: https://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/dukeimprogramsblog/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/Mindful-Eating-Transcript.pdf [Accessed 27 March 2020].