YMCA Healthy Living Magazine winter 2021 - Page 19

If you ’ ve ever finished the last mouthful of your meal and realised you barely tasted it , you might benefit from practicing mindful eating .
What is mindful eating ?
Mindful eating is the practice of directing your full attention towards the experience of eating , without judgement or distraction .
The phrase ‘ mindful eating ’ has been misrepresented in some areas of the media as a method of weight loss or portion control – in actuality , it ’ s a tool that can be used to become more aware of your body sensations and to really savour your eating experience . In other words , mindful eating is about the process , not the outcome .
Research has found some of the benefits of mindful eating to include :
} improved mental health } heightened body awareness } better digestion } reduced blood pressure } reduced guilt and anxiety about food .
Four steps for mindful eating
1 . Minimise distractions
The goal of mindful eating is to focus all of your attention on the task at hand – in other words , no multi-tasking ! Try putting your phone away and turning off the TV and let mealtimes just be for eating .
2 . Take a moment for gratitude
This might sound cheesy but it can be gratifying to take even five seconds before you dig in to appreciate the journey your food has made to end up in front of you . From the sun ’ s rays to the shelf stacker at the supermarket , a lot has gone into your meal before the ingredients even get to you .
A moment of thankfulness that you have the opportunity to sit down for a meal is also a lovely way to begin your mealtime .
3 . Check in with your body
Another component of mindfulness is tuning into the messages your body is


sending you , which often go unnoticed in our busy day . One aspect of this is tuning into your hunger-fullness cues .
Every person experiences hunger and fullness differently , through both physical and psychological sensations . For example , hunger might be signalled by low mood , irritability , lack of energy , a rumbling stomach , headaches or dizziness . Notice what your hungerfullness cues are and observe how they shift throughout the course of your meal .
4 . Tune into your senses
When it comes to eating , the first of the five senses that we usually think of is taste – but did you know that around 80 % of taste actually comes from our sense of smell . When we forget to slow down and notice each of the smell , sight , sound and texture of our food , there ’ s so much that we miss !
A great strategy for increasing your mindfulness while eating is to try approaching your food in a more childlike way . Children are great mindfulness role models ! They make the most of all their senses and take their time to explore without judgement .
Putting mindful eating into action
If you ’ re ready to give mindful eating a go , put steps one to three in place and keep reading .
Get one piece of chocolate and put it down in front of you . Take in its appearance – the colour , the shape , the surface . Then pick it up and feel its weight in your hand . Notice the texture . Bring it towards your nose and breathe in deeply – I bet

chocolate has never smelt so good ! Notice if your mouth starts to water or if your stomach rumbles – or maybe some other response entirely . Put the chocolate in your mouth and wait a moment before you start to chew . What does it taste like ? What is the texture like ? When you bite down , is it crunchy or soft ? Start to chew slowly and notice how these sensations change . Finally , swallow ! How do you feel now ?

This all might seem like quite the process but you can spend as little or as much time on it as you like ! Taking even one mindful mouthful at each meal is beneficial and will help you to better connect with your mind and body .