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What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is being aware of the food we are eating, being conscious of eating it and savoring the food. Most people have very busy lives. Because we are juggling so many things at once our default mode is multitasking. Multitasking is great because it allows us to do three or four things at once. For instance, we can have a business meeting at breakfast and that combines work and eating.
What is Wrong With Multitasking?
Whether you think this is a good or bad idea possibly depends on your gender. Men tend to think they can only do one thing at a time and women get frustrated with this attitude because they have to do several things at once.
Funnily enough, they are both correct from a psychological point of view our brains are enormous but our processing powers are not. Our brains have to assimilate thousands of images per second because we don’t see with our eyes but with our brain. That is just one of the senses, our brains also have to assimilate what we hear, touch and smell as well as taste. So there are too many distractions to make mindful eating a priority.
Bombarding the Brain
When you bring in the information that is going to our brains from five senses it is not surprising that we do a lot of things without noticing. When it comes to eating we tend to feel an urge to eat and go on to grab some food immediately.
Human beings can’t always tell whether they are thirsty or hungry. Often the urge to eat is really a desire to drink it is our body telling us we need to rehydrate ourselves. Even if we are hungry it’s possible for us to sit and notice the urge to eat and do nothing about eating.
How hungry are we really?
Think of hunger on a scale of 1 to 5. The mildest would be 1, it might be are tummy rumbling one hour after we have last eaten, are we really hungry, probably not, unless we just had a handful of raisins an hour ago. Try having a glass of water and see if you are hungry in an hour?
The scale of five would be absolutely starving. That is the sort of hunger we would feel if we had just done a days work without any food inside of us. Most of us don’t generally get that hungry often.
The ideal would be to eat on the scale of four which would indicate that we are truly hungry. Ideally, it will be 4 to 5 hours after we have last eaten and we are ready to eat and savor food – mindful eating at its best.
If we ate properly a full meal, we cannot possibly be hungry an hour later, so what is that rumbling in our tummy all about? Mindfulness allows you a time to think about it. It is possible for you to observe that feeling in your tummy and while you are doing it, you are creating space to make choices. Mindful eating is being aware of your hunger levels and not just shoving food in our mouths mindlessly.
Noticing the Texture Of Food
When was the last time you had time to notice what food tastes like on your tongue? we are encouraged to eat too much. This practice suits the food industry because it’s profitable.
Unfortunately, when we eat more, we tend to gain weight because we don’t realize when we are full because we are not listening to our bodies.
It’s not just the danger of getting fat that is the problem when we eat mindlessly. When we eat is that we are in a trance because we are concentrating on what someone else is saying, or watching television, or reading a book or any of the other myriad the tasks we may be doing when multitasking. It’s because we don’t have time to notice the taste and texture of our food.
When we don’t notice the taste and texture of the food we are missing out on a whole new world of sensations. We miss noticing the texture in food. The crunch and sound of biting into a crisp fresh apple are also associated with the explosion of natural sweeteners in our mouth.
Mindful Eating Means Better Choices
If you don’t believe me, put a piece, just a small square of your favorite chocolate in your mouth. Sit in front of a clock or a watch with a second-hand. Challenge yourself to spend two minutes eating that square of chocolate.
I can almost guarantee without a shadow of a doubt that the first time you try this you will not succeed. Mindful eating is quite literally an acquired taste. You need to be conscious of the taste, texture, and smell of the food.
All of those sensations increase the pleasure of eating. Sometimes we are so out of touch with tasting food that we require stronger tastes to notice what we are eating. These stronger tastes are usually supplied by sugar, salt, and fat.
We know that if we eat an excess of sugar and fat they will make us fat. Those three things are three things that everyone should consume less of, to be truly healthy. Mindfulness is about being aware of what’s going on in our body it also is our connection to our bodies.
When we eat more slowly and savor our food our bodies have time to send the information to the brain that we’ve had enough to eat. It takes at least 10 minutes for that information to fully get the brain, that is part of the reason why we were always told as children to chew well.
If we slow down our eating it gives the body more time to realize that it has had enough. Believe it or not, we will naturally eat less.
Exercising that element of control naturally is easy when we mindfully. The benefits of this are exponential – we feel better in ourselves because we have exercised an element of control in our life.
How many of us get depressed at the end of the day because we haven’t connected with the physical sensations in our body. We may not know why that has made us feel depressed. The chances are we just feel inadequate and not good enough.
Many of you as you are reading this and thinking at the back of the mind why did I eat so much, this morning, for lunch, or for dinner yesterday? Being aware of whether you are truly hungry gives you the choice whether to satisfy it or not.
Life is about choices
Choosing what we will eat and when is just another of those choices because we do have a choice. Do we choose to eat what makes us feel good, i.e. fat sugar and salt? That may make us feel great in the short term but in the long term, it makes us feel that an out-of-control. Mindful eating benefits us both mentally and physically.