Adopting a mindful approach to various areas of our lives isn’t a new age fad or a passing trend

Way back, somewhere between the 4th & 6th Century, Buddha made reference to mindfulness.

More recently, an increasing awareness of the benefits of being mindful of our actions has surfaced again. Jon Kabbat Zin in 1990 seems to have initiated a revival that has steadily gained momentum.

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Simply stated, “Mindful” means to be more aware at the present moment.

The opposite is to be mentally aware of any time but now, thinking instead about things to be done next or things not done earlier. That’s quite an effective way of developing stress and anxiety.

What is mindful eating?

There are whole books devoted to mindful eating and this article just scratches the surface with the intention of highlighting a few useful thoughts and practical suggestions.

There is an expression: “You are what you eat”.

Being more aware, or mindful, of what you eat can make a profound difference to your general health and wellbeing.

Some benefits include boosting your immune system, aiding digestion, reducing stress, weight loss, as well as contributing to the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

The real purpose of eating is very simple; it’s to provide nutrition and energy to sustain your body.

Of course, it can and should be pleasurable too but eating simply for pleasure isn’t a good reason. Unfortunately many people over eat without any awareness of the probable effects on their health and well being.

Six types of mindless eaters – surely you don’t match any of these do you?

– Addictive eaters

Typically think continually about food. They eat quickly, crave sugar and often can’t stop eating a favourite food like chocolate, crisps, cakes etc

– Emotional eaters

Often eat in secret/preferring to eat alone. They may crave salt, fat, sugar. Eating is their way of blocking negative emotions.

– Habitual eaters

Tend to eat whenever food is in front of them whether or not they are hungry. They tend to lose the ability to sense either hunger or when they are full.

– Misinformed eaters

Think that all salad is healthy including coleslaw and the dressing.

Think that pizza is a complete meal because it has some peppers and tomatoes on it.

Think that all foods labelled low-fat, reduced sugar and diet must be good for them.

Think that fruit bars, fruit drinks and canned food are as good as fresh fruit.

– Sabotage eaters

May sabotage their dieting attempts when approaching their ideal weight. Repeatedly shed the same amount of weight each year then regain it.

Feel more comfortable when their body is covered up and feel uneasy when it is on show. Reward themselves for any weight loss by resuming their old eating habits.

– Angry eaters

They prefer crunchy foods like crisps, popcorn, French bread or very chewy food like steak.

They feel better after chewing and biting food. Feel agitated if having to wait too long for food to be served.

Tend to eat something after an argument or when feeling tense or wound up.

If you can recognise your own traits above, a coach or therapist could begin to help you to change your destructive relationship with food.

There are some things you can do straightaway to kick start a move towards mindful eating.

Getting started with mindful eating.

Mindful eating isn’t a diet, simply a change in attitude and eating habits

mindful eating_2Note: If you have any ongoing medical conditions that require specific times and frequency of eating, do not change them without consulting your medical specialist.

Notice how your stomach feels as well as your energy levels when you are genuinely hungry.

Make a fist before each meal to remind you that your empty stomach is about that big.

When eating, stop all distracting activities like TV, reading and frequent talking at mealtimes.

Various researchers have noted that TV watchers consume around 15% more food and around the same amount when frequently talking. Put the two distractions together and your stomach easily becomes a food dump.

Slow down your eating.

Put the cutlery down between bites. Same with a sandwich. Concentrate on the taste, smell and textures of your food.

This is where the pleasure lies. Notice changes in stomach sensation as you consume the meal. Notice when you are no longer hungry, then STOP.

Think about the types of food you tend to eat

Is your diet varied and balanced? What could you change and what are you willing to?

Ditch scale watching and notice instead how your body looks and feels. Notice any change in your general energy and ease of movement. Are you more relaxed? Do you feel happier with yourself? Your weight isn’t necessarily a useful measure.

If you become mindful of what, how and when you eat, you might be surprised to discover that you have steadily developed an increasing awareness of “being in the moment” in other areas of your daily life. Without the need to become a mindfulness geek, there are many simple ways to make your days more joyful.

Connect with Expert Robin How.

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