In a nutshell, mindful eating is maintaining an awareness of what and how much we eat, and taking the time to savor it relatively free of distractions. Rooted in Buddhist teaching, it’s eating based on a physical sign, such as feeling hungry, and not eating based on emotions. Mindless and emotional eating lead to weight gain and obesity, which can then cause a host of medical issues – some of which can be life-threatening, such as heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
In a study of 1,400 mindful eaters, researchers found them to weigh less, have a greater sense of well-being and have fewer eating disorders. It seems to work for these people, but will it work for you? It can if you can incorporate it into your lifestyle.
Mindful eating is based on two premises: eat slower and in silence.
1. Eat Slower
Taking time to chew food well is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. By savoring each bite, not only will it help with digestion, but in the end you’ll end up eating less and feeling better than you would if you wolfed down your food and suffered later because of it.
If you are introducing mindful eating to your family, you might have to forego the silence part – at least in the beginning. Instead, as a family discuss the texture and taste of a food, such as an avocado. It can also be a great time to talk about how the type of food and quantity affects weight and about the benefits of eating healthy. What you teach them now will pay dividends for them forever.
Find a deeper appreciation of your food. When eating a piece of whole wheat bread for example, think about the farmer that planted and harvested the wheat that went into the bread. How the grain was milled into flour and baked into bread; the trip the wheat made from the field to your table. Pondering these things gives you a deeper appreciation of the food you are eating.
While this is a big part of mindful eating, it won’t work in its entirety for all families. However, you can implement part of it by making the dining room or kitchen table an electronics-free zone – no smartphones, no TV; just quality family time centered around a meal. For many families, it is the only time in a day where everyone can get together. If that impossible with your family, then take time out of your day to sit down by yourself and mindfully drink a cup of tea in silence.
Mindful eating is a part of a healthy lifestyle and because it is based on awareness, it makes a great weight management tool. Try it – you most likely won‘t go back to the grab-and-go lifestyle.