You’ve probably heard about mindful eating and like most people you may have specifically wondered how it can help you to lose weight. Whilst it’s possible to lose weight when you eat mindfully, that’s only one component of mindful eating. Mindful eating is much more a way of eatingrather than a traditional diet. It’s a healthy habit that can improve your relationship with food as a whole.
Mindful eating can help you become fully present during the process of planning your food, preparing it and eating it. You can bring more awareness to your cravings and potentially improve your relationship with food.
Quick summary: mindful eating is not a diet, it’s a way to improve your relationship with food whilst being fully present before, during and after your meals. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and so not everyone will benefit from mindful eating.
If you’re looking for a mindful eating plan, you won’t find a bunch of strict rules like you do when you look at many traditional diets out there, that’s because, there are no specific foods you have to eat when you eat mindfully, no set times, no set portion sizes and no crazy detox methods.
Mindful eating is not;
- Restricting foods
- Starving yourself
- Sticking to a rigid plan
- Spending lots of money on high-quality foods and equipment
- Grabbing food on the go
- mindless grazing
Mindful eating is;
- Eating slowly
- Being present without distraction during meals
- Eating without judgement
- Bringing awareness to your food options
- Listening to your body before and after eating
- Showing yourself compassion and without judgement
Essentially, mindful eating is the opposite of mindless eating.
Mindful eating weight loss
Eating mindfully isn’t guaranteed to make you lose weight, however, by eating slowly, for example, you can give yourself time to listen to your hunger signals which could, in turn, stop you from overeating and therefore help you on your weight loss journey. Becoming mindful of your food choices could also help you to choose healthier options when you pay more attention to how you feel after you’ve eaten certain foods and you pay more attention to your food options, to begin with.
When I personally began to eat more mindfully, my main goal wasn’t to lose fat, however, I was certainly okay with doing that. My main goal was to improve my energy levels and decrease the bloating I felt after eating my old diet. I paid more attention to how my stomach felt after I’d eaten certain foods and adjusted my diet week by week until I found a mindful eating plan that personally worked for me and didn’t leave my stomach bloated or uncomfortable. As a side effect, I have indeed dropped fat.
Mindful eating helped me to understand how different foods affect my energy and comfort levels. In the process of experimenting and taking my time, I learned about nutrition and how different nutrients affect my body and mood.
A mindful eating plan
This mindful eating plan can help you to understand key mindful eating principles so you can begin to eat more mindfully. Again, it’s not based on certain foods like traditional diet plans.
1. Plan your meal
Part of eating mindfully is planning your meals ahead of time or at least being aware of what you could eat. We live in a world where it’s all too easy to grab a bite on the go and pay little attention to what and how much we’re actually consuming.
To eat more mindfully, plan your meals out. You don’t have to do it for a whole week or an entire month. Part of creating healthy habits is to start small and build upon them. Consider planning your meals for just one day. Think about what you’d like to eat for each meal. They don’t have to be super healthy or a certain size.
Before you go to the grocery store, think about the foods you could add to each dish and what options you might have. Have you been wanting to try a new vegetable? why not explore it? Do a little research so you’re more mindful of what you’re going to eat. At this point, you’re not judging any foods as good or bad for you, you’re simply observing your options.
2. Cook your meals yourself
As mentioned, it can be tempting to tip something out of a packet and whilst this is convenient, doing so isn’t very mindful. When you cock your own meals you’re more involved in the process, smelling all the flavours, cutting the ingredients and feeling how each item is to the touch.
As part of a whole mindful eating plan, preparing your own food is important. You have ultimate control over what you serve on your plate and when it comes to serving up, I think you can find more gratitude for your meal as you’re the one that did all the hard work preparing it!
Cooking your own food can also increase your sense of self-empowerment whilst helping you build a new skill.
3. Clear the clutter
Because mindful eating is about becoming fully or as present as you can be whilst you eat your meals, it’s important to always sit down to eat so you can appreciate them without feeling as if you’re having to rush. Your environment is important too. You don’t want to be surrounded by clutter when you eat as this can be distracting, reminding you that you have to clear things up later on.
Set your environment up so it’s clean and tidy and that will allow you to have more focus on your food. This may also mean leaving your phone in another room as this can be a big distraction by itself. The idea is to set your dining space up well so you can be as focused on your meal as much as you can.
4. Engage your senses
The next step in your mindful eating plan is to begin to engage your senses. This is a classic mindful technique that helps to engage you in the present moment. Begin by observing the meal on your plate. Look at how many different colours you can see. Next, gently smell your food and take in all the aromas. When you’re ready to take a bite, pay attention to the textures and take a mental note of how eating each food feels against your teeth as you chew on it.
Eat slowly, making sure you chew every mouthful properly before swallowing. As you continue to eat your meal, show gratitude towards every bite as your meal fills you up.
Whilst you eat, pay attention to how your stomach feels and notice when you being to get full. Ask yourself; do I feel like I really need to continue eating or am I just eating for the sake of it? Try not to judge yourself either way, simply observe the sensations in your stomach.
5. Observe your mind and body
After you’ve eaten your meal, notice how you feel. Do you feel sluggish and tired? Does your stomach feel bloated? Do you feel as if you could eat something else soon after? Or, do you feel full enough but not stuffed, energised and satiated?
Noticing these types of things with intention can help you to make better food choices in the future.
You can also be mindful of how you feel mentally after a meal. For example, over the next couple of hours after you’ve eaten, notice if you do have a dip in mental energy or if you feel distracted or have brain fog for a while.
You could even pay attention to the quality of your sleep after eating certain things. After all, what we eat has a cascade of effects inside of our bodies.
My own mindful eating plan
I’ve developed my own personal mindful eating plan over the past year or so which has allowed me to stay slightly trimmer whilst appreciating the roles of different nutrients and the way effect they have on my body and mind.
I like to keep my meals simple and on a rota. That way, I always know what I’m going to eat and don’t have to rush around at the last minute to throw a meal together. The added bonus is, I always know I’m going to enjoy what I eat.
Over the past year, I’ve experimented with many different recipes, fine-tuning them whilst at the same time growing a passion and a good habit of cooking all of my own meals. It hasn’t been easy at times but I believe it’s been well worth it because I have simplified the way I eat.
Due to having a mindful attitude to what I now put in my mouth, I’ve grown to enjoy vegetables again and gratitude towards the powerful nutrients they can easily provide. I add them to everything I eat and prepare them in a few different ways to keep them from becoming boring. I believe having a basic understanding of nutrition is important because you can build a healthy appreciation for different food types that can broaden your horizon when it comes to selecting your groceries.
My main goal with my personal mindful eating plan is to eat a wide array of micronutrients so I cover many of my basic dietary needs whilst keeping my protein intake high. This usually results in turkey, vegetables and seeds with a dash of extra virgin olive oil. I find that a meal like this makes me feel good personally. I don’t feel tired or bloated after this meal and it keeps me full for hours meaning I don’t need to eat any snacks. However, this may not suit you.
I take my time when I eat my meals and almost treat the whole process of preparing, eating and cleaning up as a daily ritual, a habit that has so far served me well, allowing me to take control of my diet and appreciate the food I eat that little bit more.
Taking a gentle, conscious approach to food and the way you eat it can lead to a great deal of presence and awareness of why we eat and what eating certain things provides us and our health.
Overall, eating mindfully can improve your relationship with food in many different ways. It’s free to try and with a little practice, you can get better and better at it. Of course, you want to reserve judgement of the food groups you eat as you carefully pay attention to what makes you feel good and what doesn’t.