Mindfulness, in our modern world, is a great way to encourage people to take care of themselves. A similar concept is mindful eating, in which we gain awareness of our eating experiences.
Many people have found that mindfulness has helped them live more intentionally and developed the skills needed to cope with chronic pain, diseases, depression, sleeping problems, and anxiety. The focus of such an approach to eating has also become essential in changing how we eat. It has been well established for quite some time that diets are useless without behavior change. Studying diets to determine the most effective one has led us to the same conclusion: none of them are effective over the long haul.
Mindful eating is an approach to food that invites us to become more aware of our senses and the interactions we have with the food we eat when we eat it. It does not necessarily pertain to calories, carbohydrates, fats, or the essential vitamins and minerals your body requires daily. Although those who adopt mindful eating will likely lose weight, mindful eating does not have the purpose of losing weight. In eating mindfully, we are encouraged to savor the moment and food and be fully present during our eating experience.
Unlike diets that are outcome-driven, mindfulness is a process-oriented practice. Our focus is on enjoying the experience of food rather than restricting intake. We decide what and how much to eat. We often aim to consume less, enjoy food more, and arrange meals that provide desired health benefits when we adopt a more mindful eating approach.
Mindful eating and living go hand in hand with the following attitudes:
1— Being nonjudgmental. What do you think of the food? Our first challenge when eating more mindfully is to set aside our experience of the food. The awareness of judgments is essential to mindfulness.
2— Being patient. Mindful eating requires patience. Awareness does not come overnight. Take your time eating so that you can enjoy the experience rather than rushing through it.
3— Having a beginner's mind. Being open to your experiences allows you to encounter them afresh and give them meaning in the present.
4— Having trust. Being fully aware of our own experience and embracing it is one of the most important ways to build self-trust. We do not have to have the same experience as everyone else. We become more accepting of ourselves when we notice and appreciate what we feel and our responses to different foods.
5— Being apathetic. An apathetic approach contrasts with being diet-minded, which is all about attempting to lose weight. Because no specific outcomes are being measured, you are free to enjoy your food, the moment, and be present. Nothing has to be accomplished. Expectations of results do not exist.
6— Developing acceptance. Observing and accepting what happens is at the heart of mindfulness. It may mean embracing positive experiences like a delicious meal, or it may mean being open to more challenging experiences like our judgments of certain foods. Being present means accepting whatever comes up at the moment.
7— The art of letting go. It is essential to let go of past expectations when eating mindfully. When we let go of what we have become attached to, we can experience the here and now without judgment based on our past experiences.
It is these similarities between these attitudes that make them work well together. They are the foundation of mindful eating and integral to the practice of mindfulness.