What is mindful eating how do you do it?

Mindfulness is, by now, a well known mental health concept.

We’ve applied it to our shopping habits, drinking plans, exercise routines, and travel choices.

Now it’s time to apply it to our meal times.

Luke Doherty, a mindfulness coach, has worked with Uber Eats to help encourage practicing mindfulness while eating, as the brand launches their free new audio guide, Mindful Mouth.

What is mindful eating?

Luke tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Mindful eating is about being fully present in the moment when you’re eating your food.

‘By avoiding distractions such as watching TV and scrolling on your phone, and by sitting down to eat rather than, say, eating straight from the fridge or eating standing up, we reduce stress levels in our bodies, aid digestion and our food can even taste better.

‘The good thing is that mindful eating is easy to practice once you know how – it just takes some willpower and determination to make the practice a regular habit.’

There plenty of benefits to doing so, such as increasing your awareness of hunger and fullness, which can prevent emotional eating and encourage healthier habits.

He adds: ‘Mindful practices are proven to help reduce cortisol levels, our stress hormone which is involved in the body’s “fight or flight” response.

‘It can also increase the satisfaction level we feel after eating a meal, and even make our food taste better.’

It’s easy to get started. Simply remove any distractions from your immediate vicinity – such as your phone – as possible.

‘When it comes to eating, eat slowly and make sure you’re chewing your food properly, focus on your food, and stop eating when you’re full,’ he advises.

‘Eating in silence can help too, but I appreciate that can be hard to do, and make mealtimes less enjoyable if you’re with friends or family.’

Eight ways to eat more mindfully

Eat slowly and don’t rush meals

Luke says: ‘When we’re shovelling down our food or eating on-the-go, it stops us from savouring the experience, and we often won’t recognise if or when we’re full.

‘This can result in overeating or potentially even bingeing.

‘Recognising the speed of our eating is the first step we can take towards mindful consumption.’

Chew, chew, chew

In keeping with that previous tip, if you’re speeding through your meals you probably aren’t chewing enough.

Luke says: ‘There’s that age old saying that you should chew every mouthful of food 32 times before swallowing. This is probably excessive for most of us, so don’t take it too literally!

‘But the more we chew our food, the more likely it is that we improve our digestion and absorption of nutrients.’

Stop scrolling 

Uber Eats’ research found that 69% of UK adults are guilty of scrolling on their phone whilst eating on a regular basis, which heightens cortisol levels – the stress hormone which is involved in our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.

‘Try and put your phone down as often as you can when sitting down to eat,’ Luke says.

Turn off the TV

Similarly, 81% of us are prone to watching TV whilst eating.

Luke says: ‘When we place distractions in front of us during a meal, we stop focusing on the present moment and the food in front of us, so try enjoying your dish at the dinner table rather than the sofa as much as possible.’

Focus on the food

Luke says: ‘It sounds strange to say, but the more we visually soak in the food in front of us, the more we start to think about how it’s making us feel, therefore triggering our awareness of fullness much sooner, but also appreciating taste and texture much more.

‘It goes back to this point about removing distractions, which is crucial to supporting our mindful eating efforts.’

Stop eating when you’re full

It takes the body around 20 minutes to recognise fullness.

‘Mindful eating puts us in charge of our responses, rather than at the whim of our instincts,’ Luke says.

‘If you’re more present in the moment, you’ll recognise that full feeling much sooner, thereby helping you to make the active choice to not overeat, so use that to your advantage.’

Be realistic 

‘Mindful eating doesn’t happen overnight, nor will you be able to practise it at every meal.

‘Life is often hectic, we’re at the mercy of various distractions, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t master this practice immediately.

‘Perhaps start by trying to practise mindful eating during one meal time per week, or day, and go from there. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but I guarantee you’ll reap the rewards.’

Prepare yourself for the moment

Slow yourself down after a busy day by taking a moment to pause and reflect, before your eating experience.

Luke says: ‘You could listen to some music, or perhaps a mindfulness practice – I’ve scripted one for Uber Eats, Mindful Mouthful, which is free to stream on all major platforms and is designed to get you in the zone to eat well.’

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