Being mindful, focusing on the moment when you eat, will not only help you to control portion sizes or make you choose the food that will benefit your health the most – but might also create a moment of inner peace and joy.
Have you ever thought about what you ate yesterday or what you had for dinner last week? Do you remember how you felt when you had these meals, or what you were doing at the same time as you were eating?
Well, many of us can’t. We just eat because we have the food in front of us without much consideration. If you were to recall all the meals you had yesterday, you would probably remember the first meal of the day – since many of us eat the same things for breakfast every day – but the rest can be a bit blurry. We humans are creatures of habit. Because our brains are pretty smart, when confronted with the same circumstance time and again they create a kind of “default” setting (1). Let’s say that the first thing you do when you wake up in the mornings is to drink a glass of water because you heard that it was supposed to be good for you, and that’s what you’ve done for quite some time now. The decision you make moves from being a conscious one to being an unconscious one. You have an automatic response to a specific situation, and you have created a habit. This is also called doing things on “autopilot” (1).
Try to think about this in relation to how you eat. When preparing a meal, you might carefully choose what ingredients and cooking methods to use in order to cook a healthy and nutritious meal. When doing this, you are being mindful of making sure to eat well.
Unfortunately, this mindful state is most likely not always present. Have you ever accidentally finished the whole package of ice cream while watching a movie, or gone through a large bag of chips even though you were just supposed to have a few of them? Maybe you always automatically say yes when someone offers a donut, candy or some cookies for a meeting without actually wanting it? Well, you are not alone. Eating while doing something else or without even noticing you’ve eaten is quite common (2). In the same way, eating while standing up can lead to mindless eating (3).
Luckily, this doesn’t always have to be the case.
We have the capacity to cultivate a conscious thought process when it comes to what we eat. We can take a moment to pause before we eat and ask ourselves a few questions:
To ask yourself these questions prevents default thinking from taking over. Instead of “thinking with your eyes” and automatically saying yes, you get the chance to actually think through your decision carefully.
This doesn’t mean you’ll always have to say no to donuts, but when you do say yes it will be because you are 100% sure that they’re what you want, and not just because they were dangled in front of you.
Here is a list with a few tips on how to be more conscious and mindful when you eat.
There is no one-size fits all for eating better – but it all starts with being aware of the food-related decisions both conscious and unconscious that we make each day.
Creating new habits around being more mindful takes time, but give it a try and let us know how you get along!
1. Nationalencyklopedin, vana. http://www.ne.se.ezproxy.its.uu.se/uppslagsverk/ordbok/svensk/vana(collected 2020-04-23)
2. Harvard Health publishing. 8 steps to mindful eating. 2016.https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Improving your eating habits. 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/eating_habits.html#Reflect
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