Mindful Eating Rituals

Standup comedian Louis CK once said on his show, “The meal isn't over when I'm full. It's over when I hate myself.” This line is a perfect representation of our eating habits. This is where mindful eating can help enrich our lives.

However, food is more than just an energy source, as it was taught to us back in school. Food is an outlet for indulgence and tends to dictate the mood of the day. A healthy meal can make you feel great but an unhealthy meal, not so much.

So, how can we make our meals enjoyable without it denting our physical and mental wellbeing? The answer: mindful eating. Here is what you need to know about it.

What is Mindful Eating?

Based on the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion research, the general person today consumes 600 more calories a day than they did in 1970. This change might occur due to the availability of food, the variety, the culture, or the increased work-dependent culture.

Mindfulness and eating is not an elaborate technique that forces you to plan meals like an athlete. It’s merely simple awareness of the food you consume. It’s a meditative process of scrutiny and acceptance that helps you plan your meals better.

Importance of Mindfulness & Eating

Mindfulness is a concept that allows us to be more present and live in the moment. But that's not all. Mindfulness and eating can be combined to create more healthy habits to make our life more fulfilling. Here are some benefits of mindful eating you should know:

  • You enjoy your food better
  • Build a culture of eating when you are hungry and avoid over-consumption. 
  • An end to binge-eating
  • Better health. Especially helpful for those battling cardiovascular or diabetic ailments
  • It helps you regulate your blood sugar levels
  • Keep weight gain and loss in check
  • It enables you to try and enjoy a wider variety of foods
  • Reduces stress

Mindful Eating Rituals: Tips to Follow

If you are on the path to mindfulness, create the space and conviction to hold that thought and not act on it. But how does one remain mindful with meals? Here are some guidelines, tips, and recommendations for you to consider.

Tip 1: Stomach Half Full Or Half Empty

According to some scientific studies, our brain detects saturation points as late as 15-20 minutes after the body. This delayed response causes us to overeat until our brain tries to hit the brakes.

There are two ways to deal with this problem. Start by eating slowly. Let your brain and body process your meal. Take the time to chew your food enough and enjoy every morsel you put into your mouth. Second, create a mental reference of how much you eat during each meal. Take small servings and stop early.

Tip 2: Make it Part of The Plan

While this might seem difficult to many people, try to make meals a ritual. If you work at an office, create a culture of eating together with friends and colleagues. Those working from home can do the same with family members. 

This practice helps in two ways. Firstly, it pushes a group to stick to a meal schedule and eat on time. Secondly, it helps create a habit of mindful eating. Habit formation takes time and repetition.

While dining on time each day is a habit, so is not eating on time each day. Remain mindful of the meal times. Create a dedicated place, routine, or ritual around your meals. For example, consider eating lunch at the dining table with family.

Tip 3: Create a Mindful Kitchen 

When hungry, we reach for what is around us. The brain lacks patience (and the stomach, too!). If you see a bag of chips around you when you are hungry -- you will devour it.

A report by Kansas State University claims, “Only 21 percent of adults consume the recommended amounts of fruits a day.” How do we increase that? By keeping fruits handy. Imagine walking into the kitchen starving; all you see is healthy fruits and nuts. You will inevitably reach for the more nutritious option.

If you are attempting to cut back on sugar, do not bring desserts into the house. Here is another effective mindful eating ritual - do not grocery shop when you’re hungry.

This characteristic is a physiological trigger called “moral licensing.” To give you an example, if you notice a cop watching you, you tend to behave more cautiously than usual. You might not be committing a crime, but your brain triggers a response. In the same way, a hungry mind will reach for things at the store you do not require.

What Does Hunger Mean To You?

Have you ever found yourself getting up from your couch and taking a stroll to the fridge? You open the door and look for treats; you are unsure if you really want to eat or are just bored. Next time you find yourself doing this, drink a tall glass of water. If you still find yourself reaching for food, that would mean you are hungry.

It’s easy to get confused with the hunger signals that your brain sends you. Do not eat when you experience emotional cues. These signs vary among people. For some, they might experience sadness, irritation, loneliness, or even boredom. Don’t eat for your mind, but your body. Is your stomach grumbling? Do you feel low energy levels? Use physical attributes as much as possible.

Difference Between Mindless & Mindful Eating

Ever wonder why an extra-large tub of movie-time popcorn can vanish before the halfway mark of the film? It’s because your eyes are glued to the screen. In contrast, your hand makes the circuit between your mouth and the tub. This is a perfect example of mindless eating.

Eating your food in front of the television or your phone screen has become the norm today. Streaming a show or scrolling through the endless pages of social media -- they are all distractions from your meal.

The next time you sit for a meal, grab an outdoor table and enjoy your meal to the sounds of nature. Look at your food and notice what you eat. It’s also the reason why plates at a Michelin Star restaurant come decorated and attractive. Eating is about indulging all of your five senses.

What is the End Goal?

If you are considering the path of mindful eating, what is it that you want to get out of this practice? A goal in your mind can change it all. Are you looking to lose weight? Build a healthier lifestyle? Find joy in food? Or simply looking to improve your eating habits? Whatever be the reason, tell yourself why you are doing this.

We all love to dive into a gallon-large tub of ice cream. But if your goal is to cut back on sugar, you will find yourself averse to such an indulgence. These benchmarks are critical if your eating habits are deteriorating your health.

The Takeaway

Mindful eating is a practice of being present and conscious about your eating habits. It means you savour the food and listen to your body's cues on when and how much to eat. However, this is a learned practice and takes time to implement. Remember not to be too hard on yourself. Set a test period. Inculcate these changes at a slow pace and monitor your progress. Start with actionable changes and make sturdy progress.