Mindful eating is no modern-day concept. It is something that we are born with the ability to practice. In essence, it is the only way to go about in the long haul as it fundamentally redefines our relationship with food, freeing ourselves and our food choices from external influences and emotions stemming from varied experiences. Here are tips to practice mindful eating for accepting a healthy way of living.
Tips To Practice Mindful Eating
1. Tune Into Your Body
I understand the allure of relying on tools such as macro and calorie counters to assess where we are in terms of food. They give us a sense of control; it is an easy option. Therefore, it is natural that we tend to turn to these more often.
Another tool we could use instead, which could be a lot more reliable and powerful, is tapping into our bodies. Being aware of our thoughts is the first step in the process. To make it a more in-depth practice, we need to focus our attention on what we feel in our stomachs, and what is happening there.
Recognize those feelings of hunger and fullness – not just when they are at their extremes to a point where we feel entirely deprived and sickly full. Be mindful enough to sense that gentle hunger and the feeling of being comfortably full that lie somewhere in the middle of the scale. We might not always follow this, and that’s okay. We don’t have to beat ourselves about it.
We tend not to recognize these states because we are taught to finish everything on our plates whether or not we feel full halfway through it, we hear things like – “It’s lunchtime, are you not hungry? “This is too little for a 20-year-old to eat, have some more”. We get a lot of conditioning around food that begins early on. It makes us naturally ignorant of the cues we get from our bodies, which, as babies, we would follow organically.
When we practice mindful eating, it is relearning this state of awareness we are already born with and have lost in social conditioning.
2. Know What Your Body Needs
Mindfulness is more than a state of being aware. It involves us being interested to learn more about how we are feeling internally and why we feel certain emotions and thinking – without any filters and judgments and accept it the way it is.
Think about the questions we don’t bother asking ourselves – How am I feeling today? Is this emotion driving me to crave a certain food? How hungry am I? How is this food making me feel? How full do I feel? Am I gulping down the meal for the heck of it, or am I enjoying this meal? What role is my emotional state playing in this process? Is this food nourishing me? Do I want to have this food?
Our mind is powerful, and it knows the way, provided we don’t undermine it with emotions and conditioning all the time. It is the best nutritionist or guide we can ever have.
3. Stay Away From Distractions
It goes without saying. Eating is something that should not be multi-task. Mindful eating can only be practiced when you do it in solidarity. Keep down distractions like your phone, the TV, etc., while eating so you can tune into your body and experience eating in its entirety. Any visual or auditory stimulus could make you stray away from the state of mindfulness.
4. Limit Restrictions
Practice mindful eating as it does not endorse placing restrictions on food, unlike the diet mentality. It can be a scary thought, at least in the beginning, to give ourselves such freedom with no boundaries with something like food that impacts our health profoundly.
Restrictions and forbidding certain food groups in actuality make us a little more obsessed with them. It is the case when we are told not to do something, and we want to do the same thing somehow. This practice gives food the power it doesn’t deserve over us, over our better judgment. It is like making a trap for ourselves, which we will eventually end up falling into.
Instead, suppose we consider an apple to be the emotional equivalent to a bag of chips. In that case, we allow ourselves to make that decision considering we know better, an experience that freedom of choosing one over the other and then deciding if we want to have the bag of chips – not from a place of novelty from that of freedom. We might even end up choosing the bag of chips, to begin with. With time, though, we will make better, more wholesome choices while being mindful. We might be in the mood to have the apple instead when we have no restrictions.
5. Be Honest And Vulnerable
The only person we can’t fool in the real sense is ourselves. Only if we come clean to ourselves and be vulnerable to our inner self can we get to the root, the real reason we think and eat the way we do. Only when we sit with our emotions, trace back their origin, and then process it with honesty, will we be able to stop associating them with food. We will be able to free ourselves from the shackles of emotions. We don’t have to eat our feelings; we should process them. It is the only answer to most cravings we have, the sudden impulsive decisions we make around food.
Only when we go back and reflect on why we started to think of a particular food as bad, will we be able to stop ourselves from labeling it as bad, and stop looking at food in such a binary way?