My husband and I recently started eating a plant-based diet. One of the major motivators behind this decision was realising we had slid into some very mindless eating habits and wanted to practice more healthy eating. Far from being mindful about food, we were eating for comfort, eating to distract ourselves from the challenges of life in a pandemic, eating anything that was available, and eating without intention.
It also led me to thinking about how easy it is to live some parts of your life really intentionally, and then have another part where you sort of ditch the mindfulness and almost live like you’re sleep-walking.
Mindful eating is paying attention to our food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment.
I took a good long look into not just what I was eating, but how I was eating it and why I was eating it. How did I feel about the food I was consuming? What scenarios played out during breakfast, lunch and dinner times. Was I eating while stressed? Was I aware of what was on my plate? Did I appreciate the experience of eating? Was I eating to satisfy hunger? Was I eating to satisfy an emotional need?
Pondering these questions led me to some interesting realisations. So I thought I’d share some tips I uncovered about how to eat mindfully and how this practice will improve your life.
Meal Planning and Prepping
It’s not essential, but I found this extremely helpful in creating mindful eating habits. It was too easy to grab something unhealthy when I needed to just eat and go. Having my meals prepped in advance cancelled out any need to get takeaways or compromise on my new plant-based diet for the sake of convenience.
Planning and preparing meals ahead of time allowed me to practice mindfulness in my food choices, how I shopped for groceries, even how I cooked. It also really fit in well with my philosophy of keeping things simple and helped me save time daily in a big way.
If you need help getting started with meal planning, this post will guide you through the process and make it easy.
Shop with a List
Before heading out to the grocery store, I make a list of the items I’ll need for my meal or meal plan. This really helps me stick to healthy food choices and ingredients. It also becomes really obvious if I start deviating from my intentioned eating preferences and adding in items that don’t contribute to my health and newly mindful eating choices!
Be Intentional While Eating
This does require cultivating a general state of self awareness or you’ll have to constantly analyse your eating decisions retrospectively!
But generally, I tried to ask myself a few questions when I was eating or snacking or feeling a craving.
Things like: Do I enjoy the taste of this food? Am I eating because I’m hungry or am I trying to comfort or distract myself from an emotion, a memory, a situation or thought. Why am I craving a particular food? Am I hungry or do I just feel like the taste of something? Is it good for me to eat that thing? Do I actually want it?
There are no bad or wrong answers to these types of questions. They’re simply to bring awareness to your emotions and thoughts around food.
I experienced so many benefits from being more intentional while I was eating and getting to understand my underlying motives and motivations around food. It helped me make healthier food choices, start really appreciating the experience of eating and get to know myself more.
Eat When You’re Hungry
Practice mindfulness by bringing your attention to your hunger signals
Eating before you’re ravenous will prevent unhealthy snacking or gorging yourself when you finally get to eat!
On the other hand, if you’re not hungry, being aware of this will prevent you from eating simply because there’s food around.
Food Is Not an Enemy
We’ve heard this often, but truly, food is fuel. There’s no living without nourishing your body, and no living well without eating healthy food that meets your body’s needs.
It was helpful for me to look at food as a source of energy, health and vitality and a way to care for my body so that I could function optimally.
It’s easy to fall into an unhealthy relationship with food, but truly understanding the role nutrition plays in our lives can help change that. You don’t need to become an expert, but there are some excellent resources available online if you’re interested in the impact of a healthy diet on health, mood, and optimising your daily functioning. Find my recommendations at the end of this blog post.
Be Present while Eating and Cooking
It’s easy to use the time you eat or cook to catch up on social media or watch TV. But eating while distracted is a big culprit in developing unhealthy eating habits. Mindful eating is all about focusing on the whole experience of meal preparation and preparation.
Some other mindful eating habits include:
- Eating slowly
- Taking moments to appreciate what you’re eating
- Chewing food properly
- Staring off with a small portion
- Taking small bites
- Tuning your senses into the smells, colors and sounds
Make Your Routine Around Food Work For You
Spend some time thinking about the role you’d like food to play in your life. Figure out things like when you like to eat, what foods you love, if there’s a specific diet you want to follow. Do you prefer to eat lots of small meals throughout the day or do you like three solid meals? Do you run out of time in the evenings to prepare meals and end up ordering takeout? Would meal planning help with that and save you time while ensuring you eat nutritious food you love?
Delving into the why and understanding our relationship with food is a great first step in developing mindfulness around eating habits.
Since food is such an integral part of life, unhealthy practices here easily impact other areas of life you might be trying to heal or improve.
With practice and awareness, it’s possible to develop mindful eating habits that contribute to your overall health and wellness and increase your joy and appreciation for life.