We live in a society that places food on a pedestal, thereby making it difficult to ignore and even harder to make wise choices for the majority of the time. The foodie culture has many positives – it is a great activity for socialisation and it has encouraged people to experiment more with their own cooking and new ingredients. On the other hand, it makes it more difficult for individuals to control their portions, exert will power, and manage their weight if dining out, or if having indulgent “treats” becomes a frequent occurrence. Unfortunately the more we eat high fat/ sugar/ sodium foods, the more likely we are to crave them.
Mindful eating is a technique we can use to manage our eating behaviours. It helps us to pay more attention and focus to the present moment, and assists in disconnecting from harmful habits. It is difficult at first but like anything, the more you practice, the better you become. By utilising these techniques, you can better control your intake day to day, and therefore keep indulgent meals to social occasions only where they will be better enjoyed.
What are triggers for mindless eating?
- Not paying attention to your bodies cues for hunger and satiety
- Eating in anticipation of hunger
- Eating due to emotions – boredom, happiness, sadness, stress
- Eating in response to tiredness
- Misinterpreting thirst as hunger
- Eating too quickly
Often we eat as a response to external cues that have sometimes been ingrained from a young age. External cues may be that our parents told us to finish everything on the plate when we were younger, or that we would get a food-reward for good behaviour or for comfort. This removes hunger as the driving force for eating.
Strategies to be more mindful
Firstly, ask yourself before eating:
- Am I hungry?
- Am I thirsty?
- What do I want to eat?
Make sure there are no distractions whilst you are eating. Do not eat in front of the TV (probably the easiest way to mindlessly eat a lot of food), do not eat whilst walking or whilst on your phone/ computer.
Sit down and really pay attention to your meal and how you are feeling.
- Take you time to eat and pay attention to the taste/ appearance/ smell/ texture.
- Place your utensils back on the plate between mouthfuls.
- Pay attention to your satiety cues. When you feel satisfied, stop eating. This should be before you feel full.
- Allow 20 minutes before eating anything more so that your body has time to properly register that it has been satisfied.
- Enjoy what you are eating.
- Trial a food diary. Some people find this a useful way to draw awareness to what they are eating and to stop and think first.
To get used to the practice of mindfulness behaviour, you can even undertake non-food related activities. Yoga and meditation classes help to focus your attention on the present moment and to be more aware of your emotions.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about nutrition, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns.