THINK BEFORE YOU EAT- MINDFUL EATING

Are you always in a rush, running around, not having time to sit down and enjoy your meal, and you just feel like you cannot lose the unwanted weight? This article will describe how mindful eating may help you.

As I am sitting next to the ocean, I hear the waves and smell the salty air, I switch off to everything else around me. I feel calm, at rest. I think we do this far too seldom in the hurried world we live in. Most of us go through a day without even appreciating the small joys of life, like eating. Have you ever taken some time to think about what you are putting into your mouth? With this, I do not mean the type and quantity of food, but really focusing on the food that is entering your mouth, taking a minute to enjoy the flavour, texture and everything surrounding the eating process. Mindful eating is an approach that can be used to help maintain a healthy weight and a happy life.

What is mindful eating?

Mindfulness is the ability to purposefully pay attention without being judgmental, and therefore mindful eating can be described as having a non-judgmental awareness of internal and external cues influencing our eating (the desire to eat, the food choice, the quantity of consumption and the manner in which food is consumed). The approach looks at actively focusing your attention on the food and eating by avoiding distractions. Therefore, this can be achieved by sitting around a table at mealtimes with no television, radio or books.

Eating slowly is another important factor to mindful eating as it takes the brain about 20 minutes to register satiety. The aim is to learn to identify and acknowledge our hunger and satiety cues. We will then learn when we really should be eating and it will also prevent overeating and eating unnecessarily. It attempts to reduce emotional eating and binge eating by using your senses to make decisions.

What is the hype around mindful eating?

At least 3 out of 10 South Africans are considered to be obese with almost 70% of women being either overweight or obese. Even more frightening is that 13% of children already classify as being overweight or obese (worldwide the average is only 5%). By looking at these statistics, it can be seen that something needs to change.

People often avoid Dietitians because they think that they will give a strict diet, which they will anyway not want to, or be able to follow. However, dietitians can help you and this is where mindful eating might be the approach for you, as it teaches us to listen to our body and avoid overeating. Mindful eating’s advantage is that it changes the mind set to eating and this leads to a more stable weight than if following a strict diet where you may gain weight after stopping. It may also lead to a greater self-esteem and better relationship with food and eating.

Can mindful eating be learnt?

The good news is that it can be learnt, however, it takes great determination and willpower. Most people don’t eat for the reason of physically being hungry, and therefore a good starting point to mindful eating is asking the question ‘Why do I eat?’, and this can range from boredom and stress to comfort and habits. The mindful eating cycle below shows a visual representation of the steps we can follow in becoming more mindful in eating.

Ask yourself each of the above questions and decide for yourself what your reasons for eating are. Next time you want to pop something into your mouth, ask yourself ‘Am I really hungry?’.

TRY IT YOURSELF!

  1. Take a raisin or a piece of chocolate
  2. Look at it, both the appearance and the texture.
  3. Does it have an aroma?
    Where does the product come from and how was it produced?
    What do you feel as you look at it (impatience, salivation?)
  4. Place a small piece into your mouth and do not chew it (you may want to close your eyes)
  5. Wait 30 seconds (if it is chocolate wait a minute)
    Start chewing
  6. After chewing it ask yourself:
    What did you notice about the flavour and texture before chewing the food and then after?
    How does this compare to the normal experience?

Other tips for mindful eating:
– Take your time to eat a normal sized meal (try at least 20 minutes)
– Try eating with your non-dominant hand
– Use chopsticks!
– Take small bites and chew well

If this sounds interesting to you and you feel that this approach could be beneficial to you, make an appointment with us today, and let us help you find healthy eating habits.