Food for thought: mindful eating

How often do you take time out to think about the food you’re eating and why you’re eating it? Let’s face it, most of the time we chow down on food without thinking much at all.

Meal time should be a natural, healthy and pleasurable activity to satisfy hunger. However, in a fast-paced society where we have an abundance of food available and little time at our disposal, most of us tend to consume food without thinking through our food choices or enjoying what we’re eating. This can lead to overindulging, overconsumption and an unhealthy relationship with food in general. Junk food is not only easily available (just look around you) but it is cheap, fast and tasty so why not settle for the easy option? Well, because that guilty feeling you have after you’ve mindlessly downed a packet of Tim Tams might slowly subside but that spare tyre around your waist probably won’t.

The problem here is that we often focus too much on what we eat, rather than how we eat. Instead of focusing on counting calories or restricting ourselves, mindful eating teaches that your undivided attention should be given to the food you’re eating.  According to psychologist and Food Addiction Therapy author Kellee Waters, one of the worst things for weight control is multi-tasking while eating. Think about it: when was the last time you ate food without checking emails, reading a newspaper or engaging in conversation?

More often than not, our eating practices are driven by emotional cues rather physical ones- such as our bodies’ hunger signals. We may use food for comfort when we’re feeling sad, stressed or even bored even if we’re not actually hungry. This can be best described as eating mindlessly.

However, you can change your attitudes and practices around meals for the better by implementing mindful eating or consciously thinking about the food you are consuming. Simply put, mindful eating is about being aware of what you’re putting into your mouth and considering why you’re eating in the first place. Mindful or intuitive eating stems from Buddhist teachings and aims to reconnect us on a deeper level with the practice of eating -and enjoying-food. Mindful eating allows you to better appreciate the food you are eating and listen to your body’s cues so here are some tips for meal time:

1. Eat slower:

Take the time to enjoy your food and your body’s cues. Eating is not a race.

2. Enjoy the silence: 

While complete silence is virtually impossible, try and implement ‘quiet time’ during meal times to reflect on the food you are eating.

3. Switch off:

Now this one is extremely important. Turn off your electronic devices ( mobile, PC and TV)  while you’re eating because these are unnecessary distractions that interfere with quality family time and your body’s hunger signals, leading you to eat too much and contributing to weight gain.

4. Savour the taste:

Mindful eating is all about enjoying the flavour of your food. You should take the time to taste the tartness of the lemon, the spiciness of the paprika and the crunchiness of the pastry.