Previously, we shared about intermittent fasting and its many health benefits. Our eating habits can affect our health and well-being. For most of us, mealtimes are mid-day breaks where we get to feed our hungry selves. However, we rarely have the luxury to have long and leisurely lunch breaks when work is hectic. I believe we are all guilty of multitasking while eating at one point or another. Some of the common mealtime multitasking include eating while working, scrolling through our phones or watching TV. When we multitask, we absentmindedly rush through our meals. Due to our busy daily schedules, we often neglect the importance of mindful eating. The seemingly mindless act of eating while scrolling through our phones may seem innocent without much damage done. But when you look at the bigger picture and you will realise how much it affects our relationship with food.
Defining Mindful Eating
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that emphasises on being conscious of the present moment. Meditation constitutes of more than just sitting with your legs folded on the floor with a focused mind. It is a practical task that you can exercise in every waking moment to keep you grounded and aware. As long as you are fully aware of what is happening within and around you, you are meditating.
Mindful eating is when the same awareness is applied to mealtimes. It involves eating attentively and taking into account all the flavours and texture of your food. Paying attention during mealtimes gives you full control of your eating pace, therefore prevents you from scarfing down your food.
Multitasking during mealtimes shifts our focus away from our food to whatever we are doing at the same time. As much as we think we are good at doing different things simultaneously, our concentration is spread thin. When we are distracted eating becomes a mindless act, and we lose control of our eating speed.
When eating rapidly, we can accidentally eat past full and ignore the signal to stop eating. Due to our brain sending satiation signal about twenty minutes after starting the act of chewing, when we eat rapidly, we tend to unconsciously overeat. Chewing our food thoroughly allows our bodies to pay attention to the cues and eat the right amount of food.
Identifying Unhealthy Eating Behaviours
We all turn to food as a source of comfort to cope with stress from various aspects of our lives. At celebratory events, we reward ourselves with delicious food along with the company of our family and friends. While it’s okay to occasionally treat ourselves, moderation and self-awareness are crucial to a healthy eating habit.
Two examples of extreme and harmful eating disorders include anorexia and binge-eating disorder. Individuals with anorexia have a great fear of gaining weight and have a distorted perception of weight. They would severely restrict the food they consume and often try to lose weight by exercising excessively. Binge-eating is the unconscious consumption of large amount of food in a short amount of time, often without control. Other than causing weight gain, binge-eating habits burden one’s digestive system in the long run. Binge-eating can also further lead to food addictions, especially towards junk food.
These eating disorders stem from one’s unhealthy relationship with food. While anorexic people overexercise to punish themselves, emotional eaters eat their feelings instead of facing them. In order to overcome these detrimental eating habits, one must first acknowledge their issues with food and body image.
The Many Benefits Mindful Eating Has To Offer
Eating mindfully is the answer to improving our overall health. For people struggling with their weight, it also helps with weight management as it significantly reduces habits of overeating. Studies find that mindful eating improves cognition, behavioural and emotional flexibility, especially for individuals who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Besides better health, it promotes healthier eating habits and improves our relationship with food. Studies conclude that it helps patients with obsessive-compulsive (personality) disorder improve their behavioural flexibility, increase self-compassion and reduce stress levels. Most importantly, it ensures that we don’t develop eating disorders that will have devastating consequences to our health.
Interestingly, being conscious of what we consume also leads to making healthier food choices. Some research suggests that putting more thought while eating could discourage the consumption of less healthy food choices.
So, How Do We Eat Mindfully?
One of the first rules to eating attentively is to control the speed at which you eat. Constantly remind yourself to slow down while eating if you tend to wolf down your meals. I find it helpful to put your utensils down in between bites as a way to eat slower. This tiny gesture at the dining table physically forces you to pause while you eat.
Secondly, minimise distractions and focus on your meal when it is time to eat. Avoid eating at your work desk or in front of the TV. This way you will have nothing else to distract your attention away from your food. It is a good habit to cultivate that will help you reap many benefits in years to come.
Lastly, engage all your senses when you eat, really immerse yourself into the dining experience. Take note of the colours, aroma and texture of your food. One tip is to think about the origins of the ingredients while you have your meal.
Gratitude For The Food That We Eat
We consume meals because our bodies need nourishment to carry on and allow us to do various activities. Be grateful for the nutrients in the food that provide us with good health. During mealtimes, take a moment to also appreciate the food that you are eating. Remember, you are not only what you eat, but also how you eat.
If you are looking to eating healthier, Kettlebell offers a variety of nutritious meals with lots of greens to fulfill your daily intake of vegetables.
This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.