What is ‘mindful eating’?
If you struggle to remember what you’ve eaten over the course of a day or feel guilty for overeating, you’re certainly not alone. Adopting some ‘mindful eating’ practices might help you change your food habits for the better.
Mindfulness is a way to raise self-awareness, and mindful eating follows the same principle. “It is about training ourselves to eat with attention and intention,” says Dr Cinzia Pezzolesi, a chartered clinical psychologist and mindful eating trainer.
Most of us pay little attention to what we’re doing when we eat, says Dr Pezzolesi. “Mindless eating would be eating while doing other things such as checking your phone or sitting in front of the computer,” she says. “It is eating when you’re thinking about something else so you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. Or you’re not connecting with your body, and it means that when you’re full you do not stop – or you eat when you’re not hungry.” Dr Pezzolesi says that many of us eat out of habit, but by paying more attention we can listen to what we actually need.
How do you eat mindfully?
1. Remove distractions
Turn off the TV, put away your phone and don’t eat in front of the computer. Really pay attention to what you are doing. “It’s about connecting all your senses when you’re eating so that give it your full attention,” she says. “So how does the body respond to what you’re eating – how does the food make you feel?”
2. Take time to connect with your body
“Feel your feet on the floor and your bum on the chair,” says Dr Pezzolesi. “Use your senses to be aware of the food you’re eating.” She recommends that we smell our food, taste it, feel the textures and listen to its sounds as we eat so that we really connect with it.
3. Think about how full you are
And stop when you are no longer hungry or enjoying the meal. This ability to self-regulate is a vital part of mindful eating. Dr Pezzolesi says, “It’s about paying attention to the self-regulation mechanisms of the body such as satiety, hunger and fullness.”
4. Notice how you feel after eating
Have you got stomach ache? Are you too full? Or do you feel great? What’s happening in your body can help to inform your future eating choices.
Is this mindful eating simply a new diet?
Absolutely not, says Dr Pezzolesi. “Diets don’t work because they’re based on motivation. When we’re under stress, motivation is lost and diets usually fail after two to four weeks. Mindful eating is more sustainable because you learn to eat what feels good for you.” Weight loss can be a consequence of mindful eating however, she says - by learning how to self-regulate, you should eventually reach your optimum weight.
What if I’m at a party and I overeat?
An important part of mindful eating is to become more self-compassionate, says Dr Pezzolesi. “We make around 200 food choices a day around food, so even if we make a wrong choice, we can make a right one afterwards. This is part of being self-compassionate.” She explains when we experience disappointment or guilt as a result of our food choices, it’s important to say ‘I am doing the best I can’ rather than beating ourselves up about it. “Most people I work with are emotional eaters. They eat out of being stressed or being upset and so on. This is very normal, but for those people, eating is usually the only coping mechanism that they have, so I work with them to explore how we can express and experience emotions in other ways rather than only using food.” By taking away the guilt, we are less likely to go into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and overeating, she explains.
For mindful eating courses see https://www.londonmindful.com/event/calendar/
See also Dr Pezzolesi’s website http://cinziapezzolesi.com/