What is Mindfulness? Part 1
The term Mindfulness means many things to many people. Specifically, North Americans, often think it is a religion-based experience. For some groups this may very well be true, but in the general sense of the word, mindfulness is simply a heightened sense of awareness. The goal is to be completely present in a moment, noticing and sensing feelings, thoughts and not judging or interpreting them, but simply being aware of them.
With how busy most people are, we often go through the motions and do not take any note or thought into each step of a process, nor are we present during events. At PP we want our clients, of course, to be mindful in everything they do, but as nutrition coaches, we specifically want to practice this skill when it comes to food and eating. This is difficult because we often multi-task while eating. Think about the last time you ate a meal or snack alone and didn’t have your phone, the TV on, or your laptop. For most people, it will be tough to recall. So why is it important to focus on that specific task and actually eat mindfully?
People who eat mindfully often eat less food, have better digestion, feel fuller, and have a better relationship with food. This is due to their ability to listen to their body’s appetite cues, which reduces mindless eating, thus limiting extra empty calories. This also reduces the restrictive diet mentality where some foods are all good or bad and leads to the person yo-yo dieting.
As we begin, some of the biggest things we recommend to our clients include; put away distractions and eat mindfully, slow down your eating, drink more water, eat until you are 80% full, and notice and name triggers that make you eat in ways that are not helpful for your goals.
So how do I eat mindfully?
Reduce outside stimuli – Put away your phone, laptop or other electronics that will require your attention.
Slow down your eating – Slower eating has been shown to help decrease empty calories, increase digestion, and help with hormonal responses linked to eating.
Notice and enjoy how your food tastes – You spent all this time and money meal planning and prepping… why not enjoy it? Or if you are out to eat, or having something sweet, again, ENJOY it. We do not believe you need to remove all enjoyable foods and we still think you should enjoy what you eat.
Put your fork down between bites – This will slow you down and for those of us who were taught to shovel it down fast so siblings or teammates don’t eat your food, it’s a great tip in order to stop eating as though it will be taken from us.
Drink between bites – Another great way to not only improve our hydration and help reach that goal, this will also slow down the time between bites. Drinking will also help with the digestion as it will assist with food breakdown for swallowing and help food in the gastrointestinal system to move smoothly through each spot.
Use smaller plates, bowls and/or utensils – Portion control can easily be helped by simply using smaller serving trays, plates and bowls. If that’s impossible while you are dining out, you can ask your waiter to please pack a portion of the meal in a doggy bag from the beginning and you can take it home with you when done.
This should give you a good base knowledge of some actions you can take to eat more mindfully, as well as understand the basic definition and how it applies to eating. In the second part of this article we are going to look at some drills you can do to improve your mindfulness and breathing, even without being involved with food.
Want to learn more about mindfulness and how it can help you reach your goals? Come sign up for coaching with the Powell Performance staff!
Nelson JB. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017;30(3):171-174. doi:10.2337/ds17-0015
Warren JM, Smith N, Ashwell M. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutr Res Rev. 2017 Dec;30(2):272-283. doi: 10.1017/S0954422417000154. Epub 2017 Jul 18. PMID: 28718396.