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How often do you think about the act of eating? Actually, stop and think about what you are eating and how you are eating it? Eating can become automatic and unthinking – and that can be a big danger when it comes to piling on pounds or forming bad snacking habits.
Let your body catch up with your brain! If you eat too fast, you are not giving your body a chance to let the brain know that it is full. Slowing down is one of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need to eat for nutrition. If we eat too fast, the signals between the body and brain are out of sync and we can end up unconsciously eating too much. But, if we slow down, you can give your body a chance to catch up to your brain and hear the signals. Simple ways to slow down might include sitting down to eat, chewing each bite slowly and thoughtfully and pausing, putting down cutlery between bites.
Does your body actually need food or is this emotional eating? Rather than just eating when we are emotional: stressed, sad, frustrated, lonely or bored, listen to our bodies. Is your stomach growling, energy low, or are you feeling lightheaded? Too often, we eat when our mind tells us to, rather than our bodies. True mindful eating involves listening to our body’s hunger signals.
Eating alone or randomly means we eat less carefully. Sitting down at regular mealtimes with others and avoiding browsing can have a huge factor on how much we eat.
Avoid wandering around looking in food cupboards, eating at random times and places. Think about meals and snacks and plan ahead. This helps slow us down and gets us into good eating habits and stops the bad habits like eating bits and pieces while we wait for the kettle to boil. Of course, we all need to snack from time to time but it will really help you stay o control of your eating if you try and eat at consistent times and places.
Sitting down (at a table!), putting food on a plate or bowl, not eating it out of the container, and using utensils not hands. It also helps to eat with others, not only are you sharing and getting some healthy connection, but you also slow down and can enjoy the food and conversation more, and take food cues from others.
Having a mindful kitchen encourages healthy eating. Think about the food you are buying and bringing into your kitchen. Are healthy options handy when you put things away? What kinds of food is in sight?
We are more likely to eat food that is easily accessible – so try putting out some favourite fruit in a bowl or leaving healthy snacks like unsalted nuts in easy reach. Food that encourages us to slow down – like eating raisins one at a time – helps satisfy the urge to nibble without the bulk of a bigger snack.
If you plan ahead, you are more likely to eat the amount your body needs in that moment than undereating and indulging later or overeating and regretting it later.
Don’t shop when you are hungry and don’t think that buying lettuce means you can then treat yourself to lots of extra unhealthy food. It doesn’t balance out quite that easily! Think about what you enjoy eating that is healthy. Choose favourite fruits and veg. If you don’t like cooked veg, consider raw. There is no point buying healthy things that you don’t particularly like (and that deep down you won’t eat).
If you eat certain food for emotional comfort rather than nutritional value, don’t forget that it is possible to find good, healthy food that brings your comfort too. It might take a little experimentation but the more we practice eating well, and eating a good variety of different things, the less we wil feel like bingeing on comfort food. Discover food that is both physically and mentally satisfying.
Think about where food comes from. Unless you grow your own or raise animals for food, it is easy to become completely disconnected about food. It is so much more than some appealing supermarket packaging.
Think about all the people involved in bring that food to your plate from the farmer to the supermarket staff. Think of nature, the elements and the care involved in growing or rearing. Sharing recipes with friends and family adds to that feeling of many people being involved in enjoying our food.
Don’t watch telly or snack whilst your mind is elsewhere. It is harder to listen to our body’s signals when we are not concentrating. Don't multi-task with food. Sit down, to a table and focus on your food. Set aside some time when you will be undisturbed, with no other distractions for about 30 minutes. Notice any time your mind wanders away from the experience of chewing and tasting. It’s OK that the mind wanders. Your job is just to notice and keep coming back to the experience of eating. Give your food the attention it deserves, especially if you or a loved one has cooked. Enjoy savouring every mouthful.
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