You might find this familiar – mindlessly watching your favourite Netflix show while munching on your favourite snack, and suddenly you realized that you have reached the end of your food stash and all that is left is an empty packet of chips with some crumbs and your dirty fingers. Ah well, that is why you bought two, thank goodness for that promotion the supermarket had on your favourite. It is indeed unfortunate that without us knowing, we sometimes fall victim to mindless overeating.
Eating mindlessly, which also almost always leads to overeating, is a habit that builds up over time. When we don't pay attention to what we are putting into our mouths, such as when we reach for the canapés during social occasions, or for that stress-relieving ice cream tub during study week, we temporarily ignore the messages that the body sends to tell us that we do not need the food, and simply focus on the action of eating. We're not saying to stop snacking, that will be an abomination that we would not even try suggesting, but to practice mindful eating instead.
Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is a concept with its roots in Buddhist teaching. It is a technique which is used to help one gain control over one's eating habits. Connecting deeply with the experience of eating, savouring the different textures and tastes various foods have to offer, being aware of the nutritional benefits of each ingredient, and being aware of physical hunger and satiety cues are just some ways for us to start developing better food culture.
Some benefits of mindful eating include—
• Being more aware of hunger and satiety cues so that you eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full
• Bidding emotional eating farewell, as you’re able to sort through the emotions you have with regards to food and eating
• Experiencing food differently by being able to taste the various flavours
• Losing weight because you're more aware of what you put into your mouth
There are many more benefits to mindful eating, and the good news is that we have some tips to help you introduce mindfulness to mealtimes in an easy, accessible fashion.
Simple ways to slow down can include sitting down to eat, and chewing each bite for 25 times or setting your cutleries down after each bite.
Eating slower allows time for our mind and body to communicate. It takes about 20 minutes for our brains to register the satiety signal from our stomach that tells us that we are full, which is why we often unconsciously overeat.
Know your body’s personal hunger signals
Take note of when you next reach out for something to eat. Is your body physically hungry, or are you just eating due to various emotional signals? Is your stomach growling, or do you feel that your energy level is low? Too often, we eat when our mind tells us to, rather than listening to our bodies. Mindful eating involves listening deeply to our body’s signals for hunger. Sometimes, your mind is telling you that you should eat that chocolate bar, but all you actually need is just some water.
Develop healthy eating environments
It is common for us to eat with the TV blaring or to eat while fiddling with our phones. An electronics-free mealtime would be a good habit to consider picking up. Take the opportunity to either savor the silence or enjoy family mealtimes together. Take the time to reflect on how your day went and share it with your family or friends.
Consider the lifecycle of your food
Unless one is leading a hunter-gatherer lifestyle or a sustenance farmer, we would have been disconnected with the whole ‘farm-to-table’ cycle. Many of us do not consider where a meal comes from beyond the supermarket. When we pause to consider the amount of work various people have put into planting, harvesting and packaging our food items, it is hard to not feel more connected and grateful. This also helps to rekindle our relationship with food and have a greater appreciation for our daily meals.
Practicing the art of mindfulness in eating aids you in the pursuit for the slow life, allowing time for your body and mind to reconnect. Slow down, and bon appétit.
Written by Ange Chua and Clarissa Tai
Edited by Cynthea Lam
Ange Chua is an aspiring bird-watcher trying to fix her black thumbs. When she's not writing, you'd find her drinking tea out of teacups or reading in bed with her dog. She thinks her spirit animal is an alpaca.