Written by, Sujatha Samynathan
Psychologist, Mindfulness Practitioner, Consumer Experience Intern
Do you often find yourself eating mindlessly, even when you’re not hungry? You’re not alone – we live in a multitasking society, it’s nearly impossible to stay focused on one task. Our meal times have become rushed affairs and a mindless ritual leading to overeating and feelings of guilt. Food seems to disappear from our plates, as we chow down a meal with our attention on the TV, or scrolling stories.
Mindless eating traps are plentiful and food is just around every corner. Did you know that we make about 200 decisions in a day just about foods we eat and drink?
Let’s hit the pause button and start reaping the benefits of mindful eating. Ready to learn a few basic steps to change our relationship with food and how we can truly savor the experience of food?
What is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has defined mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is not a diet, but a framework to help in guiding more mindful food choices.
Jennifer Daubenmier, Professor in Holistic Health Sciences, at the San Francisco State University, says that “we often find ourselves overeating not because we’re hungry, but because the food looks or tastes delicious. We get distracted or we wish to soothe away unpleasant feelings. When we overeat, we may feel guilt or shame for doing so, and overeating can spiral out of control.”
But when we practice mindful eating it “promotes our awareness of experiences related to the desire to eat, actual sensations of hunger, fullness, satisfaction and enjoyment.”
It also helps us recognize our patterns without judgment, and to make thoughtful food choices about when, what and how much to eat.
The Center for Mindful Eating defines mindful eating as
- allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities,
- using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body,
- acknowledging food choices without judgment and being aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide decisions to begin and end eating.
Ready to make the switch from mindless to mindful eating?
Adapted from Dr. Christopher Willard mindful eating translation list – Psychologist, Mindfulness Practitioner and author of Growing Up Mindful
Let’s slice the pie by translating mindless eating habits into mindful eating habits, sounds worth it right?
Dr. Lynn Rossy, Ph.D, Health Psychologist and author of The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution, has developed BASICS – an acronym that walks you through the process of mindful eating from the beginning to the end.
Let’s explore the BASICS of mindful eating.
- Breathe and Belly check – Simply slow down, sit down to eat, chew each bite 25 times or more, and enjoy the art of mindful eating!
How to do it: Take 5 deep breaths and relax your body. Check-in with your belly sensations, How hungry are you? Is your stomach growling? Are you thirsty? Listen to what your body is telling you. If the answer is yes, then assess yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 being empty/starving, and 10 being stuffed. If the answer is no, then ask yourself ‘Are you bored or stressed’?
Benefits: Taking this pause and slowing down is the best way to get your mind and body to communicate. The body sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often overeat. By slowing down, you can catch up with your brain and hear the signals. This way you can avoid emotional eating, mindless snacking, and kick the guilty feelings away.
- Assess your food – Experience the joy of mindful eating, it’s a magical and stimulating experience!
How to do it: Eating is not just about taste. Notice the colors, textures, aroma of the food. What does it look like? Is this the food you really want? By keeping your eyes closed, as you take a bite, notice the sound and flavors.
Benefits: Tapping into all your senses can create a stimulating and joyful experience.
- Slow Down – Give your brain time to register that you’re eating!
How to do it: Pause and take deep breaths between bites, and chew your food completely. Benefits: Stay tuned with how full you are getting, enjoy, and connect with food as the main event.
- Investigate – Be a Mindful Eater, Enjoy Unitasking and Stay Unplugged!
How to do it: Avoid distractions. Remind yourself that you are eating food, not stories. Focus on the single task – just eating. Work on establishing a healthy relationship with your meal. Ask yourself, if you want to continue eating.
Benefits: Experience the sense of mindful eating, joy of unitasking by giving yourself a true break.
- Chew – Focus on the chewables!
How to do it: Identify the flavor, notice the level of hunger and fullness.
Benefits: By doing so, you can digest the nutrients, register every bite, and decrease overeating.
- Savor – One step towards gratitude!
How to do it: Use this time to reflect on your food choices and list your healthy eating choices. Be grateful for the nutrients and allow yourself to relish the rush on your taste buds.
Benefits: Remind yourself about how you received the raw materials from nature and thank the chef of the meal!
Take home practices:
- Reflect by asking yourself a series of questions, “What is happening right now?”, “Am I hungry?”, “What am I hungry for?”.
- You can also use the Hunger Scale, by rating your level on hunger before eating.
- As you continue to explore healthful eating and managing food portions, remember that learning “how to eat” is just as important as learning “what to eat.”
Shapa is an excellent tool for embracing mindfulness. Stand on the Shapa scale every day, sign up for missions, and get feedback. Onward you go on a journey towards a healthy mind and body without any judgments!
Looking to sleep better, eat a bit healthier, move more, build a practice of self-care, or just want to feel more energy each day? Let Shapa be your virtual coach. Shapa focuses your program based on YOUR lifestyle and YOUR goals so you can build healthy habits and achieve lasting results. Learn more about the Shapa difference.
About the author:
Sujatha completed her Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master’s in Clinical Psychology from India. She furthered her academic skills in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University, Indiana, USA. She currently resides in Chandler, Arizona. She has 4+ years of expertise as a mental health professional trained in psychometrics and psychotherapy working with children, adolescents and adults. She has developed a passion for mindful living, neuroscience research, human behavior and decision making, and is driven by curiosity and gratitude. She is currently working as a Consumer Experience Intern at Shapa Health, designing personalized missions by utilizing behavioral science and mindfulness techniques to improve the personal health journey of the Shapa community. When not at work, she enjoys baking, hiking and spending time with family. Connect with Sujatha on LinkedIn.