What is mindful eating? What you need to know

The psychology of eating is just as important as the food you eat.

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Team Pilot
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
June 1, 2022
5
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The process of eating is incredibly complex and it’s not just about knowing what to eat when it comes to losing weight. The psychology of eating is just as important, which is why mindful eating is so popular.

If you’re not across this approach to food, get ready as you’ll be a convert in no time.

What is mindful eating?

Mindfulness itself means to be present in that moment. Acknowledging and accepting how you feel, what you’re thinking and bodily sensations at that time.

Mindful eating takes this one step further and includes what we eat, the aromas, textures, flavours and tastes of the food.

Paying attention to what you like and dislike, connecting you to your experience and being more conscious of what you are eating.

When people think of mindful eating, they usually relate it to nutrient-rich foods, a plate of food that encourages you to eat healthier but the same technique of mindful eating can also be used for your favourite fun food, a glass of wine, a burger, some fries or your favourite snack.

By paying full attention to these foods, you may find it a little easier to not overindulge in these foods, as you are present in the whole experience.

How can you practice mindful eating?

The easiest way to start mindful eating is with your shopping list. Mindfulness can start the moment you begin making food decisions, which includes grocery shopping.

Consider the foods you are adding to your shopping list. Are you thinking about what meals you are planning to make for yourself and your family?

Consider the health value of your choices and choose foods that make you feel good, give you energy, and keep you satiated. Ensure there is lots of variety and that the choices suit your lifestyle.

The second step is to ensure that you never let yourself get too hungry. If there is a large gap between your main meals, consider taking a snack to tide you over.

If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a planned healthy snack, such as fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables with low-fat dip, cheese and crackers, nut bars or unbuttered popcorn. Or try healthier homemade ‘fun’ snacks.

How to measure your hunger

When practising mindful eating, it can be helpful to rate your hunger before diving into a meal.

Use The Hunger Scale below to rate how hungry or full you are. And, where possible, try to stay between levels three and seven at all times. Try to stay between levels three and seven at all times.

How to eat mindfully

There are a number of things you can do to practice mindful eating and you can start incorporating these into mealtimes from today.

Remove distractions

This is easier said than done but try to give yourself even 15 mins (ideally a little more) to enjoy a meal away from your TV, computer or phone. (And avoid eating whilst driving!)

Eating in a distracted state can lead to eating more food than you need and more importantly removes the mindfulness aspect as you are not paying attention.

Eat at the table

Even if you don’t have a dining table (those of us who live in a small apartment), always eat at a designated eating spot. This could be the dining room table, bench or lounge room coffee table without distractions.

Use a smaller plate

Choosing a plate that suits the portions that you wish to enjoy.

Eat slowly

If you find yourself eating quite fast. Put your utensils down between bites.

Take small bites and chew thoroughly

It’s easier to taste your food when your mouth isn’t completely full. Chew the food so you can taste all the flavours and feel the texture.

Chewing anywhere between 10 to 20 times (depending on the food) will release more flavours and sensations on your tongue.

Don't deprive yourself

When losing weight, it’s so easy to fall into a deprivation mindset and this is not what we encourage during your journey. All foods have their place.

If you restrict your calories too much or avoid foods that bring you pleasure, you will more than likely find yourself in a situation where you will crave them even more. Variety is key so be sure to eat satisfying amounts of whole foods and enjoy occasional fun foods.

What about cravings?

Is it hunger or a craving? Well, not really.

Hunger comes with specific physical sensations, such as; grumbling belly and dizziness (if left for too long) — your body is telling you, you need fuel. These symptoms disappear after eating.

A craving, on the other hand, is more directed towards a specific food, texture, or flavour.

What can trigger cravings?

There are a number of things that can trigger cravings. These include:

  • Lack of sleep and tiredness
  • Seeing or smelling food
  • Dehydration
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Not eating enough calories or balanced meals
  • Having a food tied to an experience or emotion — e.g. nostalgia
  • Feeling bored, stressed or emotional
  • Eating too many highly processed and addictive foods
  • Social media and advertising including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, billboards, buses and in stores

How to manage cravings

There are a few steps you can take to help keep your cravings at bay, which include:

  • Checking your sleep habits and stress levels
  • Drinking enough water
  • Eating balanced meals with lean protein, non-starchy veggies and starches
  • Incorporating ‘fun’ foods
  • Prioritising healthy snacks like unbuttered popcorn, slices of hard cheese or high-protein or Greek-style yoghurt.

There is also a handy exercise you might want to try when you’re experiencing cravings as it can really help you pinpoint if you’re hungry or it’s simply a pesky craving.

To start, choose a neutral food to test yourself — for example, a piece of fruit for something sweet or rice crackers for savoury.

If you are willing to eat it, it might be real hunger. If you’re not interested at all and you’re wanting something else, it’s most likely a craving.

The point of this exercise isn’t to challenge your cravings every single time. If your cravings will not go away, it’s completely fine to give into them once in a while. Listen to your body as it knows best!

Mindful eating and weight loss

If you're struggling with weight loss and mindful eating, Pilot's Weight Reset Shakes might be for you.

Our creamy, convenient meal replacement shakes keep you feeling satisfied until your next meal and are developed with dietitians and backed by science for lasting results.

Instead of reaching for whatever is in your fridge or cupboards, try incorporating Pilot's Weight Reset Shakes into your routine and take the time to truly savour the experience.

The Shakes contain more than 40 per cent of your daily vitamin needs for immunity and overall health as well as high-quality whey protein and are a good source of fibre. Plus, they taste delicious and contain pre and probiotics for gut health.

And, on the Rapid weight loss plan, it's normal to lose up to 2kgs a week for the first 4 to 6 weeks, then 0.8kgs each week beyond that on this class of treatment.

This could be just the thing to shake things up (pun intended!) if you're on a weight loss journey and are new to mindful eating.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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