For many, eating has become a mindless act mainly due to the distractions of electronic devices and the fast-paced lifestyle.
Nowadays, eating in front of a device is a common way of how students choose to unwind and relax from all the workloads.
Moreover, with the availability of highly processed convenience foods and fast-food outlets around the Maltese island, it’s easy to revert to such quick options rather than mindfully and consciously choosing more nutritious alternatives.
What is mindful eating and how can it enhance your eating habits?
According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health mindful eating involves the use of your physical and emotional cues in order to fully immerse yourself in the experience of the food and beverages being consumed.
It requires you to simply acknowledge and accept without judgement, the thoughts, feelings and bodily responses observed whilst eating. The more aware you become of your eating habits, the easier it is to make food choices that will benefit your health, the environment and the world.
Mindful eating enables you to slow down, redirect your attention and make eating an intentional act as opposed to an automatic emotional response.
The following are 7 ways to practice mindful eating derived and adapted from the book Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life (2012) and an article by Segal, Robinson & Cruz (2020):
Consider the health value of foods
Focus on buying minimally processed foods such as fruit and wholegrains.
Engage your senses
When preparing and eating a meal become aware of the sound, smell, texture, colour and flavour of the food.
Before eating, think about all the resources and people which were involved to create the meal e.g., the farmers.
This could also enable you to make more sustainable food choices.
Eat slowly to avoid overeating
Take your time, have small bites and chew food well. It takes the brain approximately 20 minutes to send signals to the body that it's full.
By eating too fast the fullness signal might not arrive to the brain, thus, this may lead to overeating.
Eat when you have an appetite
Skipping meals / going too long without eating leads to strong hunger, you might then end up choosing the quickest, most convenient food option.
Understand your hunger cues
Tune into your body, recognize whether you’re eating because you’re emotional (sad, frustrated, bored) or if your body is signalling physical hunger cues (stomach growling, low energy).
Create a calm space for eating
Avoid using electronic gadgets or multitasking whilst eating.
Focus on your meal and engage in a conversation if you’re having a meal with friends/family members.
Mindful eating is a skill which provides you with the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the beautiful experience of eating.
It’s however important to be kind and patient with yourself as mindful eating requires practice and consistency.
Remember, what you practice grows stronger over time.