Nutrition

Nov 10, 2021

Thought for Food: The Benefits of Mindful Eating

Apart from promoting a positive attitude towards food, mindful eating encourages us to beat our unhealthy eating habits by being present in the act of eating. 

At a time when our inner and outer worlds often feel like being stuck in a five-hour traffic jam in the rain, it’s no wonder that mindfulness has become a buzzword. Any mindful practice carves out a space for us to simply be, actively observant instead of active on auto-pilot and still amid our fast-paced deadline-bound lives. 


At Girlmantra, we believe mindfulness is a way for us to care for ourselves by consciously allowing ourselves to stop for a minute and relish whatever we are doing in the moment. One such practice is that of mindful eating. 


How Is Mindful Eating Different From, Well, Just Eating?

Before we delve into mindful eating, let’s look more closely at mindfulness. Defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” by Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness enables us to live more intentionally and with awareness by paying attention to what’s cooking inside our heads, in the world we live in, and in our saucepans! 


Most of us eat while watching a TV series or on-the-go without thinking about what we’re eating and why, as well as, the way it plays with our senses and impacts our bodies. When we eat mindfully, we become attuned to our bodies. Think of it like this: our bodies talk to us in signals such as hunger pangs and cravings. Mindful eating helps us understand these signals by increasing self-awareness and compassion.


The fundamental components of mindful eating are:

  • Being present in the act of eating, no distractions.
  • Mapping the physical responses of your body to what you’re eating. Do you feel full? Satisfied? Hungry only in your head? Don’t hesitate to ask your body questions!
  • Building awareness of your emotional and physical triggers for eating and/or craving certain food. For instance, you might want to eat a whole tub of chocolate ice-cream after a long and stressful day at work.
  • Engaging your senses as you eat by observing how your food looks, smells, feels, tastes.
  • Focusing on nourishment over calories and eating for your overall health.
  • Rekindling the pleasure in eating!


Wait, Is Mindful Eating a Weight Loss Technique?

No! At the heart of mindful eating is holistic health, measurable not by a number on the scale but by our physical and emotional well-being. Holistic health doesn’t simply mean we’re not down with an illness but includes our sleeping and eating patterns, daily levels of stress and anxiety, the way we feel about our bodies and ourselves in relation to the world at large, and even our close relationships and the support they offer us. 

At times, we overeat or binge-eat because we’re bored, anxious, or there’s simply too much food in front of us. Apart from promoting a positive attitude towards food, mindful eating encourages us to beat our unhealthy eating habits by thinking about the food we consume and being present in the act of eating. 


Our culture is obsessed with the ideal body and constantly makes us feel like we’re not good enough. Amidst this pressure, hopping off the crazy diet train and pursuing mindful eating might be the solution you need.

So, what are the benefits of mindful eating?

Glad you asked! Mindful eating has a number of benefits that improve our  health and well-being. Here are some of our favourites:

🍓 Better digestive health: Focusing on your food allows you to eat it at a steady pace while chewing it properly. Proper chewing and eating slowly go a long way in aiding our digestive system.

🍽  Increased pleasure from eating: By moving away from restrictions of the conventional diet culture, mindful eating helps you repair your relationship with food. Engaging your senses and paying attention to the colors, fragrances and taste can heighten pleasure and satisfaction.

🎯 (Un-intentional) weight loss: Mindful eating helps you better understand your body's signals of hunger and fullness. Once you start recognizing when your body is full, you are less likely to overeat or gain weight. Mindful eating also helps you identify which foods truly make you feel good and healthy in the long run.

✨ No more emotional eating: The cornerstone of mindful eating is awareness. When we are more aware, we are more present. When we are more present, we are calmer. When we are calmer, we aren’t as easily stressed by external triggers. Finally, when we’re not stressed, we’re not pushed to eat mindlessly and emotionally!

Loving Meals, Myself, and I

Here’s a beginner’s guide to mindful eating that you can build on and attune to your own body:

  • Eat slowly and attentively, don’t rush your meals.
  • Chew thoroughly.
  • Don’t eat while doing another activity such as watching TV or scrolling through Instagram.
  • Eat in silence. Focus on how the food makes you feel, sensorily. 
  • Make note of the feeling of fullness.
  • Ask yourself if you’re eating because you’re hungry or whether you’re eating to mask another emotion: stress, boredom, anything!

As we listen to our bodies, we are better able to identify our patterns of thought and action and replace those that don’t serve us well. Knowing why we do what we do helps us understand ourselves better, improving our relationship with food and our body image.

Next time, draw a chair for mindfulness at your dinner table. Dine with yourself as you would with a friend – with compassion, kindness, and zero judgment!

🍔 Join Girlmantra's 2 Week Mindful Eating challenge and re-build your relationship with food alongside a world-class nutrition expert! Next cohort starts December 5th. 🎯 Sign up here.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5556586/#B1
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating 

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