As one could only expect of a species half a chromosome away from a chimpanzee, so much of human behaviour is done at a subconscious level. Take for example the many facets of the typical morning routine: getting out of bed, jumping in the shower, brushing your teeth, making your coffee, all of which is usually done without a glimmer of conscious thought to what we’re doing.
Unfortunately that mindless, involuntary behaviour dictates so much of our food intake as well. Many of you will know well the experience of being stressed at your desk, getting up off your chair, wandering over to the kitchen, and opening the fridge, cupboard, or cookie/lolly jar without really knowing what brought you there. Too often we’ll then also reach out for the quickest, tastiest, calorie dense food we can see to satisfy that craving for distraction.
Or take for instance the typical snack-hunting when watching Netflix. We often wander over to the cupboard, grab similar snacks as previously mentioned (chips are a tasty option here) and head back to the couch to devour said snacks without an ounce of mindfulness applied to the snacks themselves. We’re mindlessly eating as we watch our shows and then before we know it, find ourselves at the bottom of a bag of chips with no idea how they went so fast.
We’re then usually left feeling guilty for our actions and cursing ourselves for not having more control or will-power. But how can one be in control when there isn’t any awareness or mindfulness to begin with? How can you use your mental framing and will-power to illicit a different result to consuming an entire bag of chips if you weren’t even truly “there” to do so?
This is where mindfulness comes in. It’s the first step in trying to change behaviour, and whilst it sounds so simple in theory, it takes some concerted effort to put into practise.
If you’re a mindless eater, I’d implore you to continue reading some of the fundamental principles of mindful eating I have listed below. As well as some practical tips on how to implement them.
Eating Only When You’re Hungry
This is often the hardest thing to put into practise. So often we confuse hunger for cravings. Those cravings aren’t always for food as well. Sometimes we crave a distraction from emotions, stress, work, or boredom, and we find ourselves at the fridge or cupboard looking for food. It’s important to realise here that hunger is physiological, and will only be quelled by food, whereas cravings are mainly psychological, and can often be dealt with by employing actions that aren’t related to food.
Be Mindful by…
Pausing to ask yourself if you’re really hungry, or if you’re responding to an emotional want is key prior to grabbing something to eat. If it’s not hunger, try asking yourself why you’re looking for food, then replace food with another activity that will help you with those emotions. Sometimes it’s worth just going back to the difficult task we are trying to avoid.
Connecting With Your Food
So often we consume food without giving any thought to where it came from. It’s a natural result of living in a World of surplus food requirement. Being grateful for and connecting with your food can help you appreciate food in a different way. It will also help you look at food as nourishing fuel, rather than as something to satisfy only emotional needs.
Be Mindful by…
Before you eat, think about where that food came from. If you’re consuming meat, think about how it got to your plate. Be grateful for having it in front of you. If there are vegetables there, think about where they came from, how long they took to grew, and the effort that would have been put into growing them. Maybe even give some thought to who finally cooked the food for you if you didn’t prepare it yourself. Months of effort goes into growing, raising, and preparing any single dish, and appreciating this gives us a greater connection to our food.
Eat Mindfully – Do Not Multitask
How many meals or snacks per day do you consume whilst doing nothing else? That’s no phone, no TV, no driving. One? Two? What if I also added no talking? When was the last time you did nothing but eat? I’d almost bet it hasn’t occurred in the last week, if not the last month.
Eating while multi-tasking and distracted by other things is a recipe for disaster. We give ourselves no chance to listen to our body’s cues. And perhaps more importantly, don’t really experience the act of eating. It’s no wonder then that we often look for seconds or want dessert, as our first meal usually goes without us actually enjoying it fully.
Be Mindful by…
Single-task when you eat meals. Do nothing but eat, and enjoy the company of those you’re eating with. Better yet, it’s good practise to try eating alone from time to time. You can learn a lot about your hunger and satiety cues by doing so.
More importantly, if you want to consume high energy snacks, try to form a habit of never eating them whilst distracted. That’s the easiest way to undo so much good work you put in to eat well. It’s quite possible to consume a days worth of energy mindlessly consuming high energy foods when distracted by other tasks.
Feel like self-sabotage always lets you down?
It’s designed to change your habits for life.