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By Keri Alford, Mecklenburg Extension Master Food Volunteer
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 35 seconds
The term “mindful eating” has become a popular phrase often used but not always explained. In this article, we will address what it means to eat mindfully, why this practice can benefit you, and how to get started!
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is an approach to consuming your food based on the concept of
mindfulness. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment…” Mindful eating refers to a practice of purposefully paying attention to our food in the moment that we are consuming it. In other words, to eat mindfully is to focus on the experience of eating and to take the time to listen to your body in the moment.
On the other hand, mindless eating is consuming food while focusing on other activities like working, driving, or watching television. As a nation often on the go, there are times when mindful eating can be a challenging habit to maintain in our fast-paced daily lives. However, taking the time to practice mindful eating can lead to several health benefits.
Why Practice Mindful Eating?
Eating is a necessary act of self-care that is entirely influenced by our thoughts and behavior. Practicing mindful eating leads to a focus on not just what we eat but how we eat and why we may make certain food choices.
Are we actually hungry? Or are we eating for other reasons? Am I eating my meal slowly and calmly? Or, am I rushing and multi-tasking during my meal? While there are many reasons to practice mindful eating, listed below are two key reasons to give this a try.
1. Eating Mindfully Can Help Us to Avoid Overeating
Did you know that it can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you are full? Eating too quickly can cause your body to become full before your brain registers how much food you have consumed, which leads to overeating. However, mindful eaters can usually avoid overeating by being aware of when they are physically hungry, eating slowly, and stopping when they are full.
2. If Losing Weight is a Goal, Mindful Eating Can Help More Than Dieting
Research has shown that mindful eaters are more in tune with their body signals for hunger and fullness. However, dieting is a behavior that focuses on restriction and short-term outcomes, which is challenging to maintain and usually leads to weight gain in the future. Focusing on nourishment and enjoyment are key aspects of mindful eating. This awareness helps create eating habits that are sustainable and weight loss friendly.
How to Practice Mindful Eating?
Remember to T.A.S.T.E
- Think about your meal
- Appreciate the resources, ingredients, time, and energy used to prepare your food.
- Slowly chew each bite.
- Take time to enjoy the flavors, aromas, and textures of your food.
- End your meal when your body feels full and satisfied
The more quality time and energy we put into how and what we feed ourselves, the more our bodies will thank us for being strong and healthy.
About the Contributor
Keri Alford is an Extension Master Food Volunteer with the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Mecklenburg County Center. She is a Master of Public Health Candidate, nutrition and wellness enthusiast.