Mindful eating, conscious eating, allows us to bring full attention to nutrition to learn to listen to our emotions and our bodily sensations and thus be able to eat in a healthier way.
Every time we read and hear more about mindful eating, conscious or intuitive eating as a process to learn a new dynamic with food, without dieting. To begin, clarify that mindful eating is not dieting to lose weight, or adopt any specific label. It is more of a lifestyle, a way of relating to food. It is bringing mindfulness to our nutrition and encompasses what to choose, how to cook and eat food.
It is mindful eating is, in short, trying to eat in a more conscious way.
Realizing our patterns, belief systems, values, habits, routines and thoughts associated with eating, without judgment or criticism, with curiosity and kindness. Discerning which ones help us take care of ourselves and which ones don’t.
It consists of listening to bodily sensations; pay attention to hunger and satiety signals, to nourish ourselves, feel healthy and satisfied, physically and emotionally; learn to distinguish physiological hunger from emotional hunger; know the various psycho-emotional triggers that lead us to resort to food, even when we are already physically satiated. Meditation, intention and attitude are very important in this lifestyle.
- Meditation serves as a way to tune the instrument, our body part.
- The intention, why we eat, to realize that we do not always do it out of physical hunger.
- The attitude of compassion towards ourselves, of curiosity, of openness to experience, of self-care.
IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD BY UNDERSTANDING HUNGER
To be more aware of our relationship with food, a decisive step is to understand the mechanisms involved in our eating behavior. The Zen pediatrician and nun, Jan Chozen Bays, in her book Eating attentive (Ed. Kairós), shows us that we must take into account seven aspects, many of them play a very important role in our overeating:
- Visual hunger. It is what we normally call “eating with our eyes”. A well-presented, visually attractive meal is not as attractive as another that seems to have just fallen onto the plate without any care. We can eat too much, carried away by “the pint” of a food. We can satisfy this hunger by taking the time to observe the colors, shapes, and details of what we eat.
The advertising strategies of the food industry take this into account.
- The olfactory hunger. It is the one that when evoked the phrase “smells that feeds” arises. Smells have a great suggestive power, of sensations, memories. And they can trigger other types of hunger with great ease. One way to satisfy this hunger is to delight in the smells of what we put in our mouths.
- Oral hunger. “My mouth is watering” is the phrase that suits him best. It is highly conditioned by the environment and culture. Oral hunger can be insatiable, it needs flavors, textures. When what we have in our mouth diminishes its flavor, we are already ingesting again even though we have not swallowed. The industry and its flavor enhancers stimulate this characteristic.
To satisfy this hunger, it is convenient to attend to the sensations that food causes us in the mouth, with each bite before swallowing.
- Stomach hunger. It is the one that is usually associated with physics. We perceive it through a feeling of emptiness, cramps, pain. Sometimes these perceptions are caused by habit, anxiety or restlessness, and not by an empty stomach. It is very important to become aware of these signs, learn to identify them and discriminate the reasons.
- Cell hunger. It is triggered when cells are deficient in some nutrient. It is the most difficult to glimpse, although with time, if we train in bodily self-observation, it will become easier each time. To exercise this body awareness, it is good to close your eyes before eating and ask ourselves: “What do I need now for my proper functioning?”
- Mental hunger. It is related to what we think and believe about food. It is expressed through “should”, justifications or demands, about what is good or bad to eat and at what time. The part of enjoyment, delight and attention to the body signals are left out.
- The hunger of the heart. Understanding heart as a metaphor for affection, affection, company, intimacy. Food is used to alleviate this lack of company, attachment, connection. As a way to calm emotions, fill gaps.
- It may be thirsty. Sometimes feeling hungry is confused with thirst. Drinking a little water if we feel hungry and observing the effect it produces helps us discern sensations.
HOW TO START PRACTICING MINDFUL EATING?
Look at yourself with compassionate gaze. Compassion does not mean accepting and validating everything you do. It is, from responsibility, to bring kindness and understanding to your behaviors with the intention of changing what hurts you. Accepting without guilt that what you have experienced so far has been from what you knew how to do at that time. Without blaming or reproaching you.
Remember that attitude is important, and nothing better than starting with a curious, patient attitude free of judgments and expectations, which takes us on the path of self-knowledge to understand the mechanisms that guide our eating.
Understand that this change does not happen overnight, and that the process is not linear.
In this way, errors are seen as a source of information and not something to avoid at all costs. Keep in mind the types of hunger.
When you’re hungry, take a moment to close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and ask yourself: What am I hungry for? Perhaps new flavors, companionship, has a smell awakened my appetite? As a habit or routine? Am I bored?
When you start eating, at least the first bites, try to make them conscious, paying attention to the appearance, the smell, the flavors, the feeling in your stomach or what you think of what you eat.
Keep these tips in mind, which will help you practice mindful eating:
- 1. Drink a little water before eating: It reduces anxiety and increases the feeling of satiety.
- 2. Take care of the presentation of what you eat: It is already said that you eat through the eyes. The visual stimulation of your dishes is also important. So, give value to how they present themselves.
- 3. Eat seated and without distractions: In this way, by paying attention to the act of eating, it will be much easier for you to observe if you already feel really full, and to savor and savor each of the ingredients.
- 4. Chew very well: It is proven that chewing what we eat very well contributes to eating less (because this is how the brain detects satiety signals).
- 5. without being full: You do not need to feel bloated to stop eating. Observe the filling level of your stomach with which you feel best.
- 6. Check your relationship with food: If you have a bad relationship with food, ask for professional help. Dieting to lose weight can be a predisposing factor to developing an eating disorder.
- 7. It helps to know you better: The mindful eating or conscious eating is a process of self – knowledge plus a lifestyle. It is not a diet to lose weight. It is one more step in the line of meditation practice.