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How to Master Mindful Eating for Better Health
Mindful Eating – the blissful practice that’s enabled me to sit down to a plateful of maple-syrup drenched French toast, and savor every mouthful guilt-free, before opening up my laptop to write this article for you.
Have you ever gone on holiday, ate and drank more than your “health consciousness” self would like to admit, enjoyed every minute of it, and then returned home to find yourself a couple of pounds lighter or fitting into your fave clothes like you’d just been on a quick detox?
First, congrats! Life doesn’t feel much sweeter than that, right?
And secondly, it wasn’t your imagination or a free-pass the Diet Gods gave you that week and will be sure to punish you, now you’ve admitted to it.
You were experiencing a taste of Mindful Eating. The ability we all have to positively impact our metabolism when we take the time to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and become mindful about the practice of eating.
If you haven’t already, go check out Part 1: The Benefits of Mindful Eating for Your Health, then come back to learn how Mindful Eating can help you:
• lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
• stop binge-eating
• be an example to your children of the habits that will provide a lifetime of better health
I’ll also be providing you with a checklist of the easy steps you can follow to develop a Mindful Eating practice of your own.
How Practicing Mindful Eating Helps You Lose Weight
When it comes to eating to lose weight or maintain your ideal weight, Mindful Eating is a practice that empowers us to focus on how to eat.
Mindful eating is not about a restricting diet. It’s about slowing down your thinking and actions in a way that speeds up your metabolism - instead of slowing it down, which is what happens when we mindlessly and/or stressfully push food on ourselves without giving prior thought to:
• Am I actually hungry?
• What is my body truly craving?
• What food will not only make me feel good in this moment, but also immediately after eating it, AND 2 hours later?
Practicing Mindful Eating is a green light for weight loss by showing us how to:
• Tune into our hunger and satiety levels
• Recognise unhealthy external cues for eating
• Increase our self-compassion
• Reduce food cravings and
• Decrease reward-driven eating
Check out the Checklist of easy steps you can use to develop your own Mindful Eating practice, at the end of this article.
Mindful Eating for Binge Eaters
Binge eating happens when someone eats an abnormally large quantity of food in a short amount of time, often without realising they’re doing so. While from the outside it might look like a food problem, it’s not.
A binge eater eats the way they do to drown out:
• Negative emotions, and/or
• Low self-esteem
• Stress and anxiety
Then they’ll quickly feel guilt and shame about it, stoking the fire of a never-ending “binge-repent-repeat” cycle.
Mindful Eating can help break the cycle of binge eating by helping a binge eater:
• Understand the emotions and thoughts they might be experiencing, and how to stay with those feelings without judgment, and without turning to food to escape
• Be more self-compassionate, interrupting an episode of overeating and preventing a full binge
• Become the expert of “them” – knowing when, what, and how much to eat without rules and restriction
• Eat the foods they love without fear, guilt or bingeing
Check out the Checklist below of easy steps you can use to develop your own Mindful Eating practice.
Mindful Eating for Children
Teaching children how to eat mindfully provides them with a healthy eating framework that can serve them a lifetime and help prevent them suffering from food-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
Helping kids develop their own Mindful Eating practice also provides them with a special set of skills that can be applied to many different areas of life, such as an:
• Improved ability to pay attention in all situations
• Ability to slow down for long enough to calm down and work out how to act, rather than only react to certain situations.
While the Mindful Eating Checklist below is more geared towards adult eaters, the following activity can be modified and used to help children even as young as 2-3 years old become Mindful Eaters:
Sit down with your child at snack time and get them to pretend they’re a scientist. Then bring out things such as an apple, some raisins, cucumber sticks, pot of yoghurt, or small chocolate bar to share, and follow these steps:
1) Look: ask them what colours, shapes and textures they see
2) Touch: get them to pick up each piece of food and feel it – is it smooth, wet, bumpy, rough, soft or hard?
3) Smell: ask them what each thing smells like. Is it a strong or faint smell?
4) Listen: ask them if the food makes a sound? (Then as they take their first bite, what do they hear? How does each piece of food sound different?)
5) Taste: finally get them to put each food separately on their tongue, but not to chew it just yet. Have them notice how it feels in their mouth. Do they taste anything yet? Then, when they start to chew, does the flavour change – is it sweet, sour, greasy, salty, etc?
The Mindful Eating Diet: Checklist in PDF