10 ways to become a mindful eater
1 Start small Use your mid-morning cup of tea as an opportunity to start practising mindfulness, says Black. “Feel the sensation of the cup in your hand – the temperature, the smell and the taste. Notice if your mind gets pulled away – acknowledge it and bring it back to this moment. You may want to experiment with herbal teas to draw you in. Take five minutes of tea practice then continue with your day.”
2 Make prep a pleasure “Turn off the television and pay attention to the process of preparing your meal,” says Black. “Explore it with all your senses. When you’re chopping vegetables, notice the rhythm of the chopping, the smell of the vegetables. Experience the crunch of the celery, the fresh smell of the lettuce as you break it open. What else do you notice?”
3 first eat with your eyes... “Before you begin eating, appreciate the food,” says Pearson. “Look at the variety of colours, shapes and textures. Close your eyes and imagine how the food will taste. Eat a forkful then put down your cutlery. Close your eyes and focus on the flavours. Stop eating when you begin to feel pleasantly full.”
4 Don’t fear eating out Focus on the pleasure of the fact that someone is cooking for you instead. Don’t go to the restaurant ravenous and also think about what you fancy eating before you even open the menu, so you don’t get sidetracked by the choices.
5 Make it last Admit it, most of your meals last just 10 minutes, right? There’s a time lag of about 20 minutes between eating and the brain receiving the message that the stomach is full, says Black. “When we eat too quickly we don’t create the opportunity to receive the message,” she says. Try setting a timer for 25 minutes – then eat mindfully and see if you can make your meal last until the buzzer sounds.
6 Notice how your food makes you feel “Pay attention to how you feel immediately after eating, then a couple of hours later,” says Black. “If you snack on doughnuts, your body will respond in kind. A sugar high might lift you in that moment but you’ll come crashing down later; and your mood with it. As we start to take notice of how we feel after eating certain foods, we can begin to make informed choices about what we eat.”
7 Pause for choice “When you find yourself reaching for some chocolate or other treat, pause,” says Black. “Acknowledge what is happening without judging. Ask yourself what’s driving you to reach for it. Pausing and noticing your thoughts and emotions helps you focus. You may still eat the chocolate but it becomes a choice rather than an automatic reaction.”
8 Shop mindfully Remind yourself that flashy advertising and special offers are there to lure you into buying foods you don’t need or even want. Planning menus for a few days and then making a list for ingredients can help you stop shopping mindlessly too.
9 Make every meal special “In our ‘lunch is for wimps culture’, it’s seen as a virtue to devour our food as quickly as possible at our desks,“says Bartholomew. “But with mindful eating, anything worth eating is worth making a meal over. Celebrate the lovely, healthy food to which you are treating your body. Enjoy every mouthful.”
10 Hop between foods Eating mouthfuls of the same food stops you from really appreciating it. Try ‘hopping’ between foods, not eating the same food two bites in a row. So, eat some potato, then salad, then chicken and so on.
Planning menus can help you to stop shopping mindlessly too