Unclench your jaw, soften your face, and remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth. Sometimes we are not even aware of what we are doing. It is the practice of being present, or mindful, that ultimately allows us to realize what is happening right in front of us. Whether you are doing the dishes, gardening, jogging, folding the laundry or eating, bringing the art of mindfulness into practice can create a sense of focus to the moment. By doing so, we begin to be fully aware of our actions and behaviors. We so often tend to rush through activities to get to the next task or to check off a list instead of being focused on the “present” moment.
Take a moment to practice the breathing exercise below!
Take an inhale through your nose, count to 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Practicing a technique like this is so simple, but it really helps draw us back to our present and re-focus our energies. By just taking a few moments every day or throughout the day, we can instill the practice of mindfulness into our daily routine. Mindful eating is built from these tenants of mindfulness and being in the present.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating employs the foundations of mindfulness, while engaging your body, mind and spirit. It is rooted in being present, in the moment with non-judgment, while noticing your habits surrounding eating and food choices. It is a way to build a healthy relationship with food and move away from the “dieting” culture of restriction, while teaching intuitive eating. Mindful eating It says that we can eat whatever foods we want to, but that when we start paying attention and noticing, we eat more mindfully and avoid overeating and bingeing tendencies. When we eat mindfully, we are in tune with our bodies, we notice when we are hungry, full, or when our hunger comes from an emotion or social situation.
Six Core Skills of a Mindful Eater
Mindful or intuitive eating takes practice, time and focus. There will never be a time when you are practicing mindful eating perfectly, and that’s ok! In fact, one of the core skills of being a mindful eater is letting go of any expectations of perfection. The other 5 skills are those that you will employ through your whole life in some capacity. There is no finish line when it comes to mindfulness, but practicing these core skills will hopefully help identify existing habits surrounding eating and give you a compass on how to move ahead.
- Awareness – This is the cornerstone of mindfulness. It allows us to focus our attention of behaviors and become in tune with our habits
- Being present – This means acting consciously instead of out of habit. We are often steps ahead of ourselves, so reminding yourself to be in the present moment is helpful for re-focusing attention to our actions
- Letting go of the ideal of perfection – This is a hard skill for many to learn, but it can bring reward and joy back to your life
- Being mindful of your environment and triggering scenarios – Notice how your environment either supports or discourages you from acting mindfully
- Practicing non-judgment – This means thinking neutrally about your actions or habits without labeling them as “bad”. Judgments may pop into your head, but you get to decide whether or not to believe those judgments
- Observation of self – Try to spend some time observing your thoughts. At times, it’s easy to get caught up in thoughts or feelings themselves. Try asking instead, “where is this thought or feeling stemming from”
What are some benefits of mindful eating?
- Calms punishing thoughts and self criticism about eating habits
- Works against the “diet” culture
- Improves digestion
- Sustainable way to achieve a long-lasting health
- Creates nonjudgmental awareness of self
- Cultivates gratitude
Top Tips to Avoid Mindless Eating or Overeating
- Before you eat, check in with yourself and try to identify where your hungry is coming from
- Identify where you are on the hunger scale (scale of 1-10) before eating. Try to start eating when you’re at a 4 (slightly hungry) and stop when you’re at a 6 (satisfied)
- Wait 20 minutes before second helpings or dessert. It can take this long for the satiety signal to reach your brain
- Use distractions if eating out of boredom: Have a cup of hot tea, read a book or do a crossword, take a walk or phone a friend
- Eat a high protein breakfast everyday: Eating protein at breakfast has been shown to decrease appetite, regulate blood pressure and aid in weight loss
- Eat every 4-5 hours and don’t skip meals as this will help with blood sugar swings
- Drink at least 64 oz. of water daily: Often dehydration can be confused as hunger
- Enjoy your food and eat slowly
Here are some simple recipes to enjoy mindfully!
Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup coconut or almond milk
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup chia seeds
2 cups raspberries
In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients but the chia seeds and berries. Add chia seeds and let sit for 30 minutes. Stir again then place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight until consistency is thick like pudding.
Before serving, using a fork, smash or puree 1 cup of the raspberries. Place ¼ cup of puree in the bottom of 4 small cups or mason jars. Evenly top with pudding. Use remaining berries to top over the pudding. Feel free to sample various topping such as walnuts, pecans, shredded coconut, chocolate shavings or other berries.
Walnut Brownie Bites
1 cup dates, pitted and cut in half
1 cup raw walnuts
1 t. vanilla extract
1/3 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 t. sea salt
1 t. warm water
Combine walnuts and dates in a food processor until combined, but walnuts are still a little chunky. Add remaining ingredients and process until dough forms. Form 1 T. of dough at a time into a round ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Chill for 15-30 minutes, then transfer to a container and store in fridge or freezer.
Coconut Almond Granola
3/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup Dry Oats
4 cups slivered almonds
1 cup pepitas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup walnuts
3 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sea salt (optional)
1 cup unrefined organic coconut oil, heated
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and mix. Whisk together wet ingredients and add to dry ingredients mixing to coat. Spread granola on two individual baking sheets. Place in oven for 60 minutes. Remove and enjoy as a snack, on yogurt or with milk.
**You can use all almond flour or all coconut flour