A Simple Guide to Mindful Eating

Whatever our health and fitness goals are, it is important to cultivate a healthy relationship with food. In this simple guide to Mindful Eating, I will offer three simple tips to help you improve your relationship with food for better health and results in the gym.

Our relationship with food is ultimately what will make or break a healthy diet. Food is a powerful driver in our lives and minds. Even if we endeavour to eat only wholesome, natural food, we can still easily fall off the wagon if we continue to relate to food in a problematic way. If we view food as a reward or punishment, our results will be affected.

We are hardwired to react strongly to food given its critical role in our biology. In today’s world however there is an abundance tempting food available that is designed to be difficult to resist. When we eat, we often do so whilst multitasking, watching TV, on our devices or even working. All of this can make it easy to form addiction to food.

Society generally has its own ideas around what is the ‘ideal’ body type, and this is always changing. Whilst it is important to be interested in your health and fitness, if we succumb to expectations of the ideal, we can even become averse to eating.

Many of us go to food for comfort or to relieve pain in other aspects of our lives. When we find relief in food it can make it difficult to not overeat, not matter how healthy the food is.

For some people it’s just the opposite. Food has become associated with struggle or even negative self-talk. There may be a ‘love-hate’ relationship with food or difficulty in eating enough to be properly nourished.

Mindful Eating can form part of a solution in overcoming these challenges and developing a healthier relationship with food - one that is enjoyable but also right for the body and easier on the mind. Whether your goals are to simply get into shape or to build 5kgs of muscle, Mindful Eating can play a powerful role.

Challenges with food start when we are unaware of our eating habits. Habits of addiction or aversion can form when we go through pleasant or unpleasant experiences without awareness. This can happen easily in today’s world. For example, we might be watching TV, eating away at a delicious meal with the full sensory experience, endorphins flowing, and yet not really notice what is happening. We aren’t really tasting it, smelling it or noticing when we are full.

Thankfully, Mindful Eating techniques can shine a light on these habits. They allow us to be more aware, see clearly, and uproot any unhealthy habits that may have formed. Whilst food can have a powerful hold on us, Mindful Eating does not need to be complicated or difficult at all. It can be very enjoyable.

Since this is intended to be a simple guide, I will share just three simple tips that can set you on your way to a healthier relationship with food.


1) When eating, just eat.

The first tip is to not multi-task whilst eating. Put away any devices, turn off the TV and just eat. Don’t try to do anything else at this stage. Simply make the decision to eat and only eat.

Our habits around food often form simply because we were involved in something else at the time. We did not notice when we were caught up in the pleasant experience of eating, and so our mind comes to crave it. This can also apply to many of the habits we may have formed whether it be to food, smoking or our smartphones.

By choosing to just eat, we put space between us and the experience, and are less likely to be distracted.

Choosing to just eat is a simple but powerful choice in improving our relationship with food. Sometimes, it’s all we need to do to.


2) Tune in to your senses

Next, try tuning into your senses to see the experience of eating more clearly.

First start with vision. Look at the food and notice whatever details you notice – the different colours, textures and shapes.

After vision, turn to sound, if applicable. Again, see what details you notice.

Then move to the sense of smell. Raise the food to your nostrils and see if you can connect fully with the scent.

Now put the food in your mouth and briefly pay attention to the texture only.

Then pay attention to the taste of the food. Can you separate the taste from the other senses such as texture and scent? What *exactly* is the taste experience?

After chewing well, swallow it and notice the sensation. See if you can notice any change to your feeling of fullness.

To take this a step further, you can also notice whether there are any elements of experience that you find pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

Tuning into our senses in this way can be extremely powerful in coming to see the full experience as it is. It can help to cut off the tendency to ‘lean’ into the experience and help eliminate cravings.


3) You don’t need to overdo it

After all, we are working to let go of any challenges we may have with food, whilst cultivating a healthy relationship to it. We are not looking to add any new difficulties along the way.

We do not have to place expectations on ourselves to eat this way for every meal, or even every moment. Our mind might wander whilst practicing this and that’s fine. We can just bring our attention back to the experience. This is all a natural part of developing a healthier relationship with food.

I suggest trying Mindful Eating just once per day to start with. There will also be meals that you share with other people. These are also good opportunities to practice Mindful Eating, bringing the social interaction into the experience as something to focus on.


Bonus Tip - Mindful Shopping

Whilst our relationship with food is key, the kinds of foods we choose to eat are still important. The practice of Mindful Eating is assisted by eating wholesome, unprocessed food, which is an approach we at Opal Fitness often recommend to our customers.

A simple way to ensure that you only eat wholesome food is to only buy those foods when you go to the supermarket. So the bonus tip here is to be mindful when shopping and only buy foods that are in line with your goals. This will make the rest of your diet much easier.

I hope this guide to Mindful Eating has been helpful. These three simple tips can go a long way. As always if you have any questions or are interested in receiving more help with your diet or workout routine, feel free to email us at hello@opal.fitness.