Conscious eating: cultivating mindfulness with food

Broadly, we define mindfulness as the ability to pay attention to the present moment with curiosity and without judgment. This “mindful attitude” applies to different areas and moments of our life, allowing us to focus on the experience of the moment, making it possible to be more aware of the impact of that experience on us and around us.

Mindful eating is nothing more than bringing this attitude to the way we eat. It is a set of practices that allows us to intentionally pay attention not only to the food we eat but also to the entire process of eating (hunger, satiety, digestion). The approach is not based on diet, calories, or weight. It is a mindfulness-based approach that focuses on each individual’s sensitivity to food. The intention is to help individuals enjoy the meal and food and encourage their full presence for the eating experience, which in turn leads to healthier eating and better health.

The principles of mindful eating have a wide application and have benefits for all audiences. They can be used by people without any health problem, dietary restriction or specific weight goal, facilitating healthy eating and consequently better health and well-being. They can also be used in a complementary way by people with eating disorders, dietary restrictions and weight control, always suggesting therapy and/or complementary monitoring by a specialist doctor.

We leave you some tips for more mindful eating:

Eat slowly

  • Make a pause before starting to eat to be able to be more present in the moment and enjoy
  • Savor the food (or drink) with all your senses, as if you were on a tasting menu
  • Chew your food well before swallowing
  • Put down your fork or spoon while chewing
  • Try eating using your non-dominant hand to bring more attention to eating.
  • Try eating with chopsticks

 Eat the right amount

  • Eat only until you feel 75% full
  • When serving yourself, serve a smaller amount of food and only repeat if you are still hungry when you finish
  • Use smaller plates or bowls

Take into account the energy equation

  • Always keep in mind the energy you expend: if you expend more energy (with exercise, for example) you need to eat more. If you spend little energy (spent the day sitting at the computer for example), you need to eat less

Make conscious substitutions

  • Make intentional and programmed substitutions for some foods (if you wanted healthier options)
  • Observe and become more aware if the “hunger” you feel is due to the need for food (cellular or physical hunger) or if it is satisfied in another way, thus being able to replace it (ex: “hunger of the heart” is satisfied with intimacy and connection; “hunger of the eyes” is satisfied by beauty, etc.)

Place out of sight

  • Our eyes are attracted by the image of food, even when we are not hungry. Putting foods that you want to eat in smaller quantities out of reach or further away will allow you to be less attracted to them.
  • Try to do some “fasting” of information. The body feeds on material food but the mind feeds on information. And this information, often useful, can, in excess and when it is not coherent, create confusion, anxiety, obsession.

Practice self-awareness and self-compassion

  • Observe the thoughts you have about food and yourself, be aware of your “inner perfectionist”, your “inner critic” and observe them with curiosity and kindness. Remember that thoughts are real but not necessarily true.
  • The practice of mindfulness meditation helps to calm the mind and create some space in relation to thoughts, observing them without ignoring them and without getting caught up in them.

Manage the emptiness

  • Understand that it’s ok to feel the ′′ empty stomach ′′ for a few moments. We live in a fast pace where the waiting time (for whatever it is) makes us uncomfortable. We react on autopilot in an attempt to quickly resolve any situation and this happens with the feeling of an empty stomach that we immediately try to fill. For the body, moments with an empty stomach are just as important as those with a full stomach.

We hope these tips help! For our part, we want to remind you that we have some resources that can help you maintain the practice, namely our Mindful Eating Workshops. You can find the dates of the next editions HERE.

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