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Six Key Steps For Eating Mindfully

Dr Retha Jansen van Rensburg. October 2019

· Mind,Life Skills

Eating is a process vital to every human. Eating is also one of the most enjoyable experiences we have in life.

However, for many of us, it has become a source of suffering. Our anxious and worried minds have robbed something from our bodies and hearts. They have stolen our birth right to just enjoy the natural satisfaction and cheer we find in eating. Currently worldwide, there is an obesity epidemic. In many developed countries, more than two in three adults are classified as being overweight or obese, as well as one in four children being classified as the same. Maybe the world needed the wisdom of my Grandmother– when complaining about my skeleton that was camouflaged in a little bit too much body fat, she told me that the only things that we eat that makes us fat is the food that we do not pray for! How true – all those things that I put into my mouth without paying attention to it. This was her way to tell me to eat mindfully…

Mindfulness is the act of paying full, non-judgmental attention to our moment-to-moment experience. Mindfulness is available to us each and every day. We repeatedly fail to slow down and value some of the most sensual, enjoyable experiences that fill our daily lives. You may possibly think that your life isn’t always filled with such incidents, and that you have to search for them. In other words, you feel that you are forced to go out of your way so that you may experience pleasure in your daily life: it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere.   Yet there are many activities we take part in daily that present chances for deep, sensory -heavy experiences. The problem is however, that we rush through our experiences, forgetting to slow down and live mindfully, and thus fully appreciate the present moment. If we just slow down enough to give our full attention to our present activity, the activity itself can be transformed, as though we are experiencing it for the very first time.  Nowhere is this truer than in the case of food.  Eating is a daily habit that involves many automatic processes. Eating does not always require focused attention. We can easily have dinner and watch television, send an email, work on our to-do list, or have a conversation at the same time. When we do so, we become less aware of the process of eating and tasting our food. Our attention is not focused on the sensation of eating but on the television, e-mail, or the content of the conversation. 
When this happens, we tend to enjoy our food less. Most of us eat two or three meals per day. Like most people, you most likely also snack several times in between. Pause for a second and ask yourself: can you recall what you ate yesterday? Do you remember how it tasted? What was the texture like? Did you pay any attention? Were you eating mindfully? Mindful eating is deliberately paying attention to what is happening both inside yourself—in body, mind, and heart—and outside  yourself, in your environment, while you eat. Mindful eating involves full awareness without criticism or judgment.   The words “without criticism or judgment” are central to mindfulness. Mindful eating is a quest marked by curiosity, exploration, learning, and a growing feeling of being set free.

This is not about diets, swapping food groups, charts, or scales. Mindful eating is not decreed by an external authority. It is guided by your own inner experience, moment by moment. Your experience is the only one of its kind. Mindful eating ultimately is an acceptance based, intuitive process that accepts the fact that as human beings we will always have cravings and struggle with it but we can slow down ourselves and reflect on the best strategies to manage them. Therefore, you are the expert!

Mindful eating helps us become aware of what our body is telling us about satiety and hunger. We learn how best to nourish our body and this reduce poor decision making. This process takes a pro-active approach to our nutritional habits which for most individuals, has been completely taken for granted and reactive for their lives.

 “Mindless Eating”

Gaining an understanding of what mindful eating is can often be best done by comparing it to most people’s normal eating patterns. Most people’s food choices and consumption levels are driven by their taste buds, which is driven in turn by their very primitive survival-based brain. A combination of factors may have caused this. For older people particularly, eating everything on their plate may be a habit forced on them in childhood, in the name of good manners.

For young and old, the inclusion of unhealthy and addictive, but incredibly tasty ingredients in foods, and food enhancers such as sauces, etc. means it can be very hard to stop eating until there is nothing left.

How to Become a Mindful Eater

Eating mindfully, on the other hand, requires making conscious choices about the foods we eat, both quality and quantity. It involves a degree of mental effort, as this needs to be practiced consistently and constantly, until it becomes a mindset, or habit.

How then can one become a “Mindful Eater”? When we become more aware of what foods we are unconsciously craving, reaching for, or making do with, we can look for the “why” that drives or enables it. Are we at the mercy of our taste buds, lazily relying on habits, or snacking due to emotional distress or simply boredom?

The fact is, we are not making adult, conscious decisions before we prepare or eat our food, even though we may often regret it afterwards. (That is another huge bonus of mindful eating – the release from guilt). Ultimately, we when are asking ourselves “why?”, we become more likely to choose healthier options, based on our dietary needs and lifestyle goals.

Key Steps For Eating Mindfully

Here are some key steps to Mindful Eating:

  1. Asking yourself “How hungry am I?”
  2. Asking yourself “Why do I want to eat right now?”
  3. Finding someplace different to eat, away from our busy lives, i.e. the desk at work.
  4. Removing any distractions, i.e. try not to eat while watching TV or scrolling on your phone.
  5. Eating slowly and intentionally, don’t wolf down food.
  6. Focusing on the process of eating; divide or chop food into manageable bites and eat with a focus on taste, smell, sight and more. Become aware of every nuance in your meal and make it an experience, rather than a vacuuming job.

These steps encourage a person to simply slow down and take a highly aware conscious state, during something that for most people is completely routine and thoughtless. Ultimately it requires a great amount of sensitivity and desire to become aware of what we choose to do.

In Conclusion: Mindful Eating isn’t a fad or a diet style, which is simply a meal-plan with a deadline. Mindful eating can contribute to a healthier pattern of eating. Mindfulness lessens emotional eating and can help contribute to a healthier weight. Because mindful eating reduces the speed of eating, you satisfy your hunger earlier and thus end up eating less. This reduces the chance of overeating (and thus the consequences like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer as well). Moreover, mindful eating allows you to enjoy tasty food more. Mindful eating is also fun! No matter what our age or condition, we all have to eat and drink, which gives us at least three to six opportunities a day to bring the power of mindfulness into our lives.

It is our sincere wish at Zenzile Life that this information on Mindful eating will assist you to release yourself to the joyfulness and delight, the abundance and wonder, of the simple acts of eating and drinking mindfully, so that you can discover sincere, profound, and on-going satisfaction with food and delight in eating throughout your life.

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

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blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.