Why Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating is an approach to eating differently from our typical modern way of consuming food. You can probably guess what “mindful eating” means in essence; however, you might feel a bit unclear about how to go about doing it or how to explain it to someone.
Mindful eating involves the why, the how, and eventually the what of eating. I will start with the “why.”
First of all, there is the question of “Why eat mindfully?”
For the health of it! Many of us think we are somewhat unhealthy; or we actually are unhealthy in some regard. And it’s no secret that many of us in the Western cultures of the world are overweight. There are many reasons for this and it is complicated both at the individual and public health level. Suffice it to say, mindful eating will address many health concerns as well as some of those complicated factors of being overweight. Many of those factors which are obstacles to good health and wellness are eliminated by default. The focus in mindful eating is not on the battles of eating healthfully or limiting calories. The focus in mindful eating is not about what “should” be, but about what “is”. However, it can be a resolution to those battles.
Mindful eating allows us to eat more healthfully in several ways. As we eat mindfully it slows down the process and we eat less. Science has known for a long time that when we chew our food slowly and put our fork down between bites we slow the overall time it takes to eat a meal. We also know that eating foods that require a lot of chewing vs. foods that melt in our mouths naturally slows the process. The longer we have to chew, the sooner we get the “full” signal from the brain, thus eating less. That point touches on the “what” to eat, but we’ll stick the “why” for now.
Stronger than Willpower. One of the most critical reasons I use the mindful eating approach is that it provides a more effective foundation for motivation than simple willpower. Mindful eating provides evidence and reason—substance which we can build upon and sustain us for the long haul. Whereas will power, is more like single-minded, stubborn grit. (Nothing wrong with grit—it certainly has its honorable place in life; I just don’t see where it has gotten me or others beyond briefs stints of effort for short term goals. Besides, it puts me on the defensive and I prefer to be in a more productive state of mind!) As a recovered sugar-holic, who not only ate a lot of sugary foods, but also ate compulsively and excessively; the notion of willpower was discouraging and meaningless to me. Expecting us to attack a physiological addiction with simple willpower is a cruel joke to people who likely already have self-esteem issues.
Mindful Eating is Empowering. Mindful eating provides influence rather than control. Through the process of being mindful we are providing ourselves with the power of our mind to have influence over time. When we seek to control our behavior and choices it gives us a feeling of loss when we don’t follow through with control. (And again, trying to control something is sometimes like fighting.) When we seek control we set ourselves up for failure—or the perception of it. This makes more sense when we understand what mindfulness is, and even more sense when we experience it.
The Reverse Snowball Effect. Another reason to try mindful eating is that it allows us to make healthier choices. When we take the time to focus on why we are making the current choice of a particular food; how much of it; what it feels like, tastes like; and so on, we can then start to reflect. Reflecting is a tool to use right alongside mindfulness. Reflecting means taking a look at the past (and to some degree the future) and describe the subject in detail. In this case why we choose certain foods, how much, how often we ate in the past. When we reflect on these choices, it will help us eat mindfully now. When we begin to understand why we made certain choices in the past, we address the answers in present choices with less effort. I call this as the “reverse snowball effect”. Part of this reflection is also addressing in our thought process why those choices were healthy or unhealthy—call it what it is (or was) and don’t beat yourself up for it!  Mindful eating is one of the most effective wellness strategies when reflection is used alongside of it.
Being grateful. I’m not sure how or why, I’ve simply observed that when I practice mindful eating I feel and become more grateful. I will leave it at that. Not only does that make me feel better, science is now indicating that being grateful has a healing effect.
More on Mindful Eating. If this sounds like a topic that you are eager to learn more about, I invite you to stay tuned for more about why (plus the how and what) of mindful eating. And if you are eager to get started, but don’t know how, I invite you to learn more about A Mindful Mouthful and other mindful eating workshops with Himawari Wellness.