Dr. Heather McKee's Evidence Based Insights

Mindful eating, top 5 tips for how to eat more mindfully today

Mindful eating, top 5 tips for how to eat more mindfully today

In the last post we talked about how mindfulness (ability to attend to/ be aware of the present moment) is a foundational habit that is important to cultivate in order to help raise awareness of your behaviours and the impact they have on your health. You also discovered how mindful you are (If you didn’t get a chance to do this, you can do so here).

These days we hear a lot about the importance of mindfulness in the media, which is great, however it is often hard to understand how you can cultivate daily mindfulness (without having to meditate for hours on end!) to help improve your health long term. My aim this week is to summarise what the research says about mindfulness and mindful eating and give you some ways in which you can apply this foundational habit to your life, today.

What does the evidence say about the importance of mindful eating in weight loss?

Many of us eat whilst being constantly distracted by the TV, a partner, a book etc. This can lead us to eating more than anticipated, without even noticing it or not enjoying it as much as we should.

A recent review found that 85% of mindfulness interventions resulted in improvements in mindful eating behaviours (O’Reilly et al., 2014). These studies were not just those focused on building mindful eating practices, they often simply looked at mindfulness to manage stress and anxiety. Demonstrating that being more mindful in general can have a positive impact not only on your eating behaviours but on your mental health too.

If you are someone that feels that they are an emotional or social eater (doing the Weight Loss IQ quiz here can help you understand more about what drives your behaviours), practicing mindfulness is vital as it can help you tune in to your emotions more. This allows you to separate your thoughts from your actions or in other words attend more to what is happening in the present. Thus, enhancing positive coping responses to emotions, and helping break the vicious cycle where your emotions drive how and when you eat.

Mindful eating can be described as the ability to attend to, or be aware of, food cues. Examples of food cues could be taste, texture, smell, chewing, pace of eating, portion size etc.

Mindful eating is beneficial to your health in a number of ways:

  • By eating more mindfully, you learn to eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.
  • People often realise that unhealthy food isn’t as nice as they thought and are more tuned in to how it negatively effects their mood and energy.
  • Mindful eating helps you understand more around the emotional issues you have with food. It helps us differentiate between eating when our emotions tell us to each rather than eating because we are hungry.
  • It is particularly helpful for social eaters, by helping you attend to food cues better it helps prevent you from being as vulnerable to overeating in social situations.
  • You become more tuned in to your hunger levels and how to differentiate between when you are actually hungry and when you are simply craving something because you are bored or tired etc.

Choose one of the below tips to incorporate into your life this week (note: try not to take on more than one this is likely to attenuate their effectiveness).

My top 5 tips on how to practice mindful eating now;

  1. Turn off all devices and put away reading when eating.
  2. Eat one snack a day in a mindful way. To do this pay particular attention to the taste, texture and smell.
  3. Try to make one meal or snack last at least 20 minutes.
  4. Put your cutlery down between each bite.
  5. Aim to chew and swallow your food fully before having another bite.

The above may seem overly simplistic to some, but don’t underestimate the power of little changes. Mindful eating can not only help you eat less, but it is also good for the digestive system and helps enhance your enjoyment of food!

If you do it consistently enough it will become automatic and you won’t even know you are doing it anymore.

Next week I will be sharing a specific mindful eating practice – chocolate required!!

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Published on 20th Nov 2017 at 10:10 by Dr. Heather McKee

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This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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