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Mindful eating: How does it work?

Mindfulness cannot only help to be more aware of what you eat but consequently help to eat less and lose weight without exercise. But first we should take a look at the problems we are facing: During the lunch break, a roll is quickly bought at the bakery and wolfed down standing up, while again e-mails are answered and one is already at the next team meeting in one’s mind. This is a classic example of Mindless Eating: We eat without consciously devoting ourselves to food and our attention is actually on other things. Similarly, eating is often used as a coping strategy to suppress negative feelings. We eat when we are sad, bored or lonely, for example. In doing so, we fall back on foods containing fat and sugar, which have a positive influence on our emotions in the short term, but have serious long-term health effects. As these are ready-to-eat products, the process of cooking and preparation also takes a back seat.

We have known for a long time that what we eat has an influence on our health and, in the long term, on the development or prevention of numerous (lifestyle-related) diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc. But we are less concerned about the fact that the way we eat also influences our health. Because no matter how much effort we make or how much nutrients we take in, if we cannot perceive our own body signals and do not know when we are full, we will always return to an unfavorable eating behavior. In concrete terms, we notice this after a diet, for example, which in most cases only has a short-term effect. However, we quickly fall back into our old eating patterns. One way that can lead to better eating behavior in the long term is mindfulness. One advantage of this is that it is a simple, inexpensive method that can be used at any time.

How attentive eating works

Mindful eating means concentrating fully on the food and involving all your senses.

There are various ways to integrate mindful eating into everyday life:

. Plan enough time – take at least 20 minutes for a main meal.

. Let other activities take a break and give your undivided attention to the food

. Eat slowly and pay attention to your body signals. Listen to your body when it tells you that you are hungry, but also when you are full.

. Do not use ready-made products, but prepare your meals fresh as often as possible. Use as many nutrient-rich foods as possible.

What good is mindful eating anyway & how does it help to lose weight without exercise?

Studies have shown that mindful eating leads to more conscious food choices, develops a sense of appropriate portion sizes, and consumes fewer calories overall (Jordan, Wang, Donatoni, & Meier, 2014).

Together, these factors contribute to counteracting obesity and resulting diseases.

Mindful eating, however, not only serves to prevent physical illnesses, but also helps with psychological complaints. On the one hand, there is a general connection between mindful eating and subjective well-being (Khan & Zadeh, 2014), on the other hand, there are also concrete improvements with regard to emotional eating and ravenous appetite (Katterman, Kleinman, Hood, Nackers, & Corsica, 2014). Unfavourable eating habits are often associated with negative emotions and an improvement in eating habits thus also has a positive influence on mood (Kristeller, Wolever, & Sheets, 2014).

It is understandable that in view of today’s professional and everyday demands, not everyone can integrate mindful eating into their daily lives to this extent, but even small changes are valuable. For example, start with a single mindful meal a day or even just one mindfulness meal a week. And once you have implemented this, ask yourself if you could use your smart phone more mindful.

As an introduction to the art of mindful eating, this classical mindfulness exercise is very well suited. You can do it anytime and anywhere. The inventor of this exercise (Jon Kabat-Zinn) originally chose a raisin for it, but you can choose different foods (e.g. an orange, nuts, biscuits) depending on your mood. 

  1. Find a quiet place and adopt a comfortable sitting position.
  2. Take a single raisin and place it on the outstretched palm of your hand.
  3. Allow this sight to take effect on you and look at the raisin extensively from all sides. What is the surface structure of the raisin like? Are color gradations visible? Is the raisin oval or round?
  4. Take the raisin between your fingers and feel how the raisin feels. Is the raisin smooth or rough? Does the raisin feel sticky or dry? Is the consistency soft or hard?
  5. Take the raisin to your nose and smell it. Can you detect a smell?
  6. Bring the raisin to your ear. Can you hear sounds when you move the raisin between your fingers?
  7. Bring the raisin to your lips and allow the consistency and texture of the raisin to take effect.
  8. Now put the raisin in your mouth, but do not swallow it yet. Feel the raisin with your tongue and perceive the different impressions of the raisin. Then slowly start to chew the raisin and perceive the taste. Is it more intense than usual? When you are ready, swallow the raisin and feel.

So, did you get a chance to try some mindful eating?

If you are generally interested in bringing more mindfulness into your everyday life, please have a look at our offers for private persons and visit us in our weekly courses!

Sources

Jordan, C. H., Wang, W., Donatoni, L., & Meier, B. P. (2014). Mindful eating: Trait and state mindfulness predict healthier eating behavior. Personality and Individual Differences68, 107–111. 

Katterman, S. N., Kleinman, B. M., Hood, M. M., Nackers, L. M., & Corsica, J. A. (2014). Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review. Eating Behaviors15(2), 197–204. 

Khan, Z., & Zadeh, Z. F. (2014). Mindful Eating and it’s Relationship with Mental Well-being. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences159, 69–73. 

Kristeller, J., Wolever, R. Q., & Sheets, V. (2014). Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) for Binge Eating: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Mindfulness5(3), 282–297. 

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