4 Reasons to Eat Mindfully
4 Benefits to Mindful Eating
Think for a moment: what are you doing while you eat? Maybe you use lunch as a time to go over everything that has to get done this week. Or you spend part of the time thinking about meeting the next deadline. Maybe you’re behind so you work through lunch- half eating a sandwich while reviewing tomorrow’s meeting notes. But wait, did you close the garage door this morning? How many times can you ask yourself that question in 10 minutes? How about after work? Do you eat dinner like a zombie watching the Walking Dead on Netflix?
You are busy. Distractions are everywhere. We live in the age of advertising, on demand entertainment, phone notifications and multitasking. Paying attention to what you are doing right now actually takes practice.
Eating mindfully is simply tuning in to what you eat, while you are eating. Here is what happens when you start paying attention.
1. You tune in to what your body is telling you. When you start to pay attention as you eat, you start to notice what is happening in your body. What does this hunger thing feel like? Where in your body do you notice it? What does it feel like when you’re satisfied? What does it feel like if you’ve eaten to much? When you start paying attention, you naturally slow down. This allows your body’s satiety signals (the thing that tells you you’re full) to get to your brain before you overeat. A 2008 study found that those who ate more slowly reported feeling full and consumed fewer calories.[i] You learn to distinguish between hunger and a craving, being stressed, angry, or fatigued- and then can make better choices based on how you feel.
2. Food tastes better. When you slow down just a little and start to pay attention, you might realize how often you eat without really tasting your food. Food is meant to be pleasurable. Mindful eating gives you the chance explore flavors and sensations you might otherwise miss. You will start to notice the subtle sweetness of carrots and beets. You’ll enjoy the entire experience of that bite of chocolate cake- and are more likely to stop before you eat the whole thing.
3. Focus improves. If you’ve ever tried meditation, you’ll know how difficult it is to stay focused on one object. The mind constantly wants to plan, reminisce, explore, worry, etc. Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve one’s ability to focus.[ii] And you don’t have to sit in some special position to practice. Mindfulness is about your intention. If you choose to fully pay attention to what you are doing, you are practicing. And for you multi-taskers, you may be surprised how much more you can get done when you start doing only one thing at a time.
4. You improve everyday anxiety. A Harvard study done in 2010 showed that daydreaming- when the mind wanders to things other than what’s happening at that moment- leads to more unhappiness.[iii] Even those who daydreamed about pleasant things were only slightly less unhappy. Mindfulness- the act of catching when your mind wanders and bringing it back to what is happening now- is the opposite of daydreaming. A few minutes a day of mindfulness practice has been shown to decrease everyday anxiety. [iv]
Eating well is about learning to make good choices, not about following a diet. Slow down so that you capture the whole pleasure of eating. Enjoy the occasional piece of chocolate cake- as long as it was you who made the choice without guilt. Start practicing mindful eating and learn to trust in and listen to your body.