The term “mindfulness” was defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”.
Mindfulness is a term that has become so enmeshed in our everyday language and has become popular because it urges conscious awareness of whatever the focus might be. It has become a method of encouraging someone to take good care of him- or herself. Likewise, “mindful eating” encourages us to gain awareness of our eating experiences.
Mindful eating is the process of paying attention to our food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment. This is an approach to food that focuses on individuals’ sensual awareness of the food and their experience of the food.
It has little to do with calories, carbohydrates, fat, or protein. The purpose of mindful eating is not to lose weight, although it is highly likely that those who adopt this style of eating will lose weight. The intention is to help individuals savor the moment and the food and encourage their full presence for the eating experience.
What determines success and failure with such diets?
A common thread for those who are successful is the ability to pay attention to the diet and stick with the plan, whatever that plan might be. It might seem obvious, but this is the difference between “mindless” eating and conscious eating.
Our suggestions have always been to pay attention to what you are eating, such as “Don’t watch TV while you eat,” “Serve the correct portions,” “Chew 32 times before swallowing,” and “Sit down while you eat.” These recommendations have always been about paying attention, just as one would through mindful eating.
The difference with mindful eating is that it is not about rules or guidelines; instead, it is about individual experience. No one has the same experience with the same food every time. The idea is for people to have their own experiences and to be in the present while having them.
Eating mindfully is about bringing full awareness to each plate or bite of food. It begins with the first thought about food and lasts until the final bite is swallowed and the consequence of the episode is experienced.
Eating mindfully is a practice that requires a commitment to behavior change similar to that needed for any diet or eating plan; at a diet’s core is the need to pay attention. It is important to restate that the main benefit of mindful eating is not weight loss. However, it is highly likely that people who adopt mindful eating as a regular practice will lose excess weight and keep it off.
Mindful eating supports your’ sense of who you are by assuring you that you are OK in a nonjudgmental and self-accepting way. It encourages you to appreciate food rather than restricting it and starving, by having a beginner’s mind and patiently appreciating each moment with full awareness. It encourages you to trust in your own decisions rather than being restricted by rules about what and when to eat. Mindfulness encourages you to live fully in each moment and appreciate your life as it is.
Team NBL gives you a blow by blow guidance into helping kickstart mindful eating.
- Begin with your shopping list.
Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.
- Be Hungry when you’re at the table— but not when ravenously hungry.
If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.
- Start with a small portion.
It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.
- Appreciate your food.
Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.
- Bring all your senses to the meal.
When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.
- Take small bites.
It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.
- Chew thoroughly.
Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.
- Eat slowly.
If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with your tablemates.