We learned about mindless eating: eating on autopilot and not paying attention to why, when, what, how, and how much we eat.
This might be the time we unthinkingly reached for the bag of chips on the table right after dinner, or when we mindlessly munched on some min jiang kueh (peanut pancakes) that we spotted in the office pantry from time to time.
How do we break the habit of mindless eating? We practice mindful eating! This week, we’ll look at how to eat with more awareness.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a tool we can use to build healthier eating habits and a healthier relationship with food. When we eat mindfully, we’re more aware of our bodies and emotions, and the flavours and textures of food.
We also pay more attention to how fast and how much we’re eating, and to feelings of fullness. This helps prevent overeating — something that’s more likely to happen when we eat mindlessly — which is very helpful for those of us trying to lose weight. Even if we are not aiming for weight loss, mindful eating also helps us to maintain a healthy weight.
Here are some tips on eating with more awareness!
Practise Mindful Eating Before Your Meal
Listen to Your Body
Choose to eat when you feel physically hungry: signs include low energy and a growling stomach.
If you’re reaching for food but you’re not hungry, take a step back and figure out why — are you bored? Upset? Are you turning to emotional eating? Then ask yourself if you actually want, or need, to eat at that very moment.
Similarly, listen to your body when you’re ordering food. Say you’re deciding between a $6 fishball mee pok with extra liao (ingredients) and the $3 portion. Ask yourself: “Am I that hungry? Do I need the upsize?”
Prepare to Eat
Before you dig in, take a moment to look at your food — its colours and textures — and smell its aroma. This will help prepare you to be more aware when eating.
Practise Mindful Eating During Your Meal
Savour the Food
Chew slowly and enjoy the meal with all your senses. Chewing each bite slowly lets us taste the wok hei (wok fragrance) of hor fun or the nutty sweetness of wild rice. Feel the crunch of thosai and the creaminess of its potato filling, and how curry tingles your lips.
When all your senses are engaged in the eating process, you’ll get more enjoyment out of the meal. You also pay more attention to the taste of the food — is it too salty, too sweet?
Focus on the act of eating — lifting each forkful, chewing, and swallowing. Start small by focusing on your food for the first five minutes of your meal, and practise until you can stay focused longer.
Listen to Your Body (Again)
Stop eating when you’re full — you don’t have to finish everything on your plate. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to send out signals that you are full, so eat slowly!
Tips to slow down: Switch hands! If you’re right-handed, use your left hand to hold your fork (or chopsticks, if you’re up for a challenge). And take smaller mouthfuls by replacing your tablespoon with a teaspoon.
Practise Mindful Eating After Your Meal
Observe how you feel after eating: maybe you feel bloated after a large plate of char kway teow. Or maybe you chose papaya over ice kacang for dessert, and you feel more energised.
Being aware of how foods make you feel can help you rethink your food choices.