In this post-industrial era, we take eating for granted and we engage with it with huge unawareness or with a lot of psychological and emotional baggage that obscure and distort a simple, basic and miraculous aspect of our life. In a world of multitasking and fast-food, mindless eating is all too common. We have less and less time and ability to stop, stay focused and get in touch with our inner selves – our thoughts, feelings, sensations.
If we are distracted while eating or if we eat and we are consumed by worries, fears and urgent tasks, we are eating a lot of stress and this is harmful for our bodies and minds. Practiced over time, this mindless eating habit may lead to many unhealthy side effects: poor digestion, discomfort after meals, fatigue, weight imbalances, and disconnection with our food.
If the mind is "multi-tasking" during eating, critical signals that regulate food intake may not be received by the brain. If the brain does not receive certain messages that occur during eating, such as sensation of taste and satisfaction, it may fail to register the event as "eating". This scenario can lead to the brain continuing to send out additional signals of hunger, increasing the risk of overeating and other imbalances.
Mindfulness recently has become a very popular concept, increasingly accepted and studied in the worlds of science, healthcare and education.
Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. Food is a powerful sensual experience that engages all our senses. We pay undivided attention to the colours, smells, textures, flavours, temperatures and even the sounds (crunch) of our food. We become fully engaged in the present moment.
Mindful eating is eating with awareness, and involves paying attention to your body’s signals. This means allowing yourself to eat when you are hungry and knowing to stop when you are full. This practice is good for your well-being because it can help you eat in a healthy, balanced way.
“We’ve learned to choose our foods by the numbers (calories, carbs, fats, RDA’s, price, whatever), relying more heavily on our reading and computational skills than upon our senses. We’ve lost all confidence in our sense of taste and smell which can’t detect the invisible macro- and micro-nutrients science has taught us to worry about, and which food processors have become adept at deceiving anyway.” Michael Pollan, Journalist
Mindful eating addresses food behavior rather than the nutritional content of food. Many people know how to eat healthier. But to put the knowledge into practice, that is the difficult part. Eating in this way creates awareness for our true needs and helps take better care of ourselves. It is not a concept or a theory. Mindful eating is practice, you have to experience what it is about.
You may begin by asking yourself simple questions like:
- "When am I eating?"
- "Why am I eating?"
- "Am I hungry and where in my body do I feel hunger?"
- "What do I really need right now?"
- "How does food really looks, smells and tastes like?"
- "Do I really like this?"
- "How does fullness feels like?, satisfaction?, satiety?"
- "How am I feeling when I eat?"
- "Which thoughts, feelings or emotions arise when I eat?"
Step by step, mindful eating intents to open and widen your awareness around food and eating.
Being aware is a faculty that everybody possesses by nature, but that can be trained to help take better care of oneself. Mindful eating is an eating awareness training. Training awareness is a mental challenge, it is like sports for your mind. This means that it needs practice, discipline and effort in the beginning. But the good news is that you can see results quite in a short time.
When we are able to find happiness in the most basic activities of our lives- breathing, walking, eating, drinking, lying down to sleep – we discover the secret of how to be truly happy and at ease in our lives!
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