Mindless eating is a common issue many of my clients are trying to get rid of, and for good reason. Mindless eating is often associated with eating more food but having less enjoyment of that food. To suck the joy out even more, mindless eating often leads to guilt which in turn leads to a cycle of restriction, then overindulging, and more guilt.
How do you switch from mindless eating to mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a lot more than just giving your undivided attention to the eating process. If you need a refresher on what mindful eating is, check out What is Mindful Eating?
The first step in transitioning from being a mindless to a mindful eater is the ability to pause and be aware. Meditation is a great way to exercise these abilities. Our brain is on autopilot most of the time, which means it is going to be following the neural connections that are the strongest and thus easiest to follow. The more we meditate the better the brain gets at being aware and present.
When you first meditate it may feel pointless or uncomfortable because your mind may wonder around nonstop. This is normal, if you keep exercising the calm and focus neural pathways through meditation it should get easier to control your thoughts.
Just like with running, don’t start with a marathon. Work your way up to longer, deeper meditations. Before you know it you will be more present, and mindful eating will be easier.
5 ways meditation can help with mindful eating;
1- It gives you the ability to press pause.
As I mentioned above, this is really the first and most powerful thing to master when it comes to mindful eating. You must first know how to press pause before you can become aware, conscious, present, or whatever you want to call mindful. Pressing pause also affords you the opportunity to think through your food choices and possibly make a healthier choice… but no judgement if you don’t.
2- It teaches you to be mindful.
Do you ever feel like your mind quickly bounces around from thought to thought without much control? Once you have the ability to pause, meditation teaches you how to hold your attention on one thing, or one thought, for an extended period of time. When you can do this effectively, it then becomes easier to be more present before and during meal times.
3- It lowers your stress levels.
When stress levels are high cravings and appetite can skyrocket. Even if we have the awareness to recognize we are over eating out of stress, we may not have the willpower to care if our stress is too high.
4- It helps you honor your hunger and respect your fullness.
Meditation can help us observe and be aware of sensations in the body. When we can fully tune into our body’s physical and emotional cues, it makes it easier to give it what it needs. For example, if you pause and ask yourself “why do I want to eat this?” the answer may be for hunger, pleasure, emotions, or simply no reason at all. Other times we may be hungry, but if we are not tuned into our body, we may not notice the hunger until we are overly hungry which could then lead to poor food choices and overeating.
5- It helps you ditch your inner critic.
Meditation can help you release thoughts that don’t serve you. How many times have you eaten something but squashed the joy of eating it, feeling guilt or fear around that food? When we operate from a place of fear and judgement around food, we miss out on an opportunity to really be present during the eating experience. When we ditch guilt, it becomes easier to enjoy our food and move on verses falling into a cycle of eating, feeling guilty, and restricting, then repeating the cycle again.
Bottom Line- Mindful eating is a great way to focus on making healthier choices while fostering a positive relationship with food. In order to be a mindful eater, it is helpful to have the ability to pause and be present in the moment. Meditation is a great way to exercise your brain’s ability to pause, focus, and be present.
If you want to learn more about mindful eating and get an introduction to meditation, join my Mindful Eating and Meditation class. You must register, as space is limited. All donations for the class will benefit Lotus House in Miami.