Mindful eating for happier and healthier eating habits
So many distractions, so little time! This is often the attitude we bring to our eating, something to get over and done with while also working at the computer, comparing or contrasting ourselves to the latest Instagram pic or being pre-occupied with planning our week ahead.
There are many benefits to bringing a more conscious awareness to our eating habits. These include:
• Awakening the senses – You begin to really tune in to the taste, texture and real enjoyment (or not!) of the food you are eating. This is a whole sensory experience to be appreciated rather than distracted from.
• You eat enough but not too much – In becoming more aware of your eating, you don’t end up eating mindlessly therefore you recognise the feeling of being sated, fully satisfied when you have eaten enough. This is better for weight management.
• A calm mind leads to a calm body – Your inner critic is not activated nearly as often. Mindfulness tends to lead to more self-acceptance and self-kindness. You tend to make healthier choices and have a less punishing self-dialogue… “I can choose to eat this or that….” replaces, “I should not”, “this is bad”, “I have no control” etc. This is the very internal dialogue that leads to binging or purging.
• Making healthier choices – When we eat mindlessly, we are less likely to make healthy choices. With a more mindful approach to our body and how we think we are more likely to nurture and care for our body and speak to ourselves in a more compassionate way.
• Bringing awareness to our eating patterns – We soon recognise that food is just food, not good or not bad – we can choose to eat an amount that makes us feel good and make healthy choices that energise and nurture.
• Mindful eating helps us to listen to the messages of our body – We eat when we’re hungry, savouring the taste and being present to when you have eaten enough. You eat and stop eating before you are ravenous and therefore you’re less likely to over-eat. We place the right portion size on our plate to satisfy our hunger. Sometimes, we need to re-train ourselves to know this. Most of us live in a world where we have access to plenty of food so with mindful eating, we can let go of our famine mentality… “this is enough food for me, I have enough.” If we overeat, we create health problems for the future. Also, it just doesn’t feel good!
• Letting go of early life conditioning – Very often, we have learned an approach to food which is much more about numbing out e.g. emotional eating, or we may have learned our eating habits from our family of origin. For example, I grew up in a large Irish family with six brothers. I learned to eat very large portion sizes, way beyond my physical needs. When I recognised this, I began to eat a portion size that was more appropriate to my build. Combined with my yoga practice and a far more compassionate self-dialogue, this led to a much healthier and leaner body size without major effort (I’ve never been a fan of calorie counting!). I became more interested in natural, healthy, organic foods and less interested in dense, energy zapping foods. I do eat savoury and sweet things, I just do so with more appreciation and awareness.
Whether you are changing your eating habits to support weight management or whether you just want to be kinder towards yourself, eating mindfully will awaken an appreciation for the effects of self-nurture inside and outside the body. This naturally leads to increased energy and more ease around food as you free yourself from unhelpful eating habits.
You can begin today to enjoy your meals and savour the taste. Eat in silence sometimes to heighten your awareness. Let go of distractions and bring kindness towards how you speak to yourself about your body. Try adopting the 80/20 rule. Overall healthy and nutritious 80% of the time and allowing for the 20% when you may indulge a little. After all extremes are not healthy or good for the mind, body or soul – enjoy!
Ann Bracken MA, Grad.Dip. PG Dip
Ann Bracken is an accredited (AMBICA, AMIACP) Online Coach/Counsellor CBT Psychotherapist & Author.
Ann provides Mind-Body Health & Wellness Coaching via Skype/FaceTime & Telephone.
She is also a qualified Mindfulness Yoga Teacher & Nutritional Therapist. See full profile & Online Booking info on www.annbrackentherapy.com