Have you spent the last few months eating or snacking more due to boredom or anxiety or stress?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been facing huge restrictions to our lifestyles and daily routines, with the majority of us being confined to our own homes since March. With that, for a lot of us, has also come the feeling of needing to eat or snack more to fulfil our emotions. We call this mindless eating – eating our emotions, instead of eating when we’re actually hungry.

This means we have now formed poorer eating habits, and have developed a weaker willpower to saying no to the foods we know we should eat in moderation, comfort foods, such as foods that are high in saturated fats and calories.

How can we now manage the frequent snacking or poor eating habits, mindless eating, as we head towards getting more routine and a larger sense of normality in our lives?

The simplest answer to this is to ensure that we use as much willpower as possible. See your willpower as a physical muscle – The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Using your willpower starts by trying to avoid buying the unhealthy snacks and foods in the first place. So, the first point of call comes on our visit or internet shop to the supermarket and whilst there to consider and give thought to our long-term goal.

What has shown to really benefit us at this stage is if we have some form of screensaver on our mobile phones reminding us of the goal we wish to reach.  This can either be in pictorial form or text of your choice that you feel would encourage you on your weight loss journey.

It could also be in the form of some kind of reward, for example a picture of the hotel you would be treating yourself to when you reach your desired goal.  A quick glance at a reminder of what we are hoping to achieve or reward ourselves with (staying away from foods as a reward) can really help in making healthier choices.

But what happens when the less desirable food still makes it to our kitchen or we have partners or children that would like to eat something that, perhaps, holds a few more calories than we would have hoped for?  The unhealthy snacks somehow make their way to our cupboards.  This is where mindful eating can make a difference acting as another preventative or stop sign towards our unhealthy food choices.

 

But what is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is quite simply engaging the senses and giving our full attention to the food we are eating.  It is savouring the taste, texture and aroma of what we eat rather than having a distraction of the tv on, or our mind being elsewhere.

In this respect, mindful eating allows us to develop a healthier relationship with the food we eat whilst also becoming more aware of the nutrition within it.  By focusing more on the food we eat, we are then able to develop a deeper appreciation of what goes into our body and what then gives us a further sense of wellbeing and health and what doesn’t.

When focusing purely on the pleasure of eating, it allows us to simplify our thoughts, taking us away from the often-negative associations we have had with food and the guilt that often accompanies it. We’re slowing down the pace whilst really appreciating and enjoying the food we are eating. This is fundamentally the difference between mindful eating and mindless eating.

 

Why should we try mindful eating? 

Like many associations with mindfulness, it allows us to once again live in the ‘here and now’ appreciating the moments as they are happening instead of otherwise being distracted in complicated or negative thoughts.  Mindful eating has shown to help with binge eating and weight loss, allowing us to gain control over our eating habits rather than being controlled by an impulse created by negative thought patterns or habitual behaviour, for example, eating when stressed, depressed or nervous.

Slowing down our eating process, enjoying and chewing our food thoroughly before swallowing also ensures we are giving our stomach enough time to tell our brain that we are full. It isn’t until your food gets into your stomach that it starts to release satiety hormones which feed back to the brain to tell us we’ve eaten enough.

How many times have you felt full as you finished eating, and then got fuller and fuller and fuller and felt sluggish and bloated for a long while after you’ve eaten?

This is because it takes anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes for your stomach to send the messages to your brain to indicate you are full. By slowing down our eating, we are able to allow that process to happen and really know when we are fully satiated.

As humans, we rarely eat because our brain says we need to. Our brain only tells us to eat when we are starving. This is a natural survival instinct we have as humans.

Most of us actually only eat because we are creatures of habit, who form routines of as and when to eat. We eat because we come home at a particular time and that is our cue to have dinner. We eat by time association, or by social situation.

How many times have you sat down to watch something on telly and had a craving for something to eat? Maybe you are full from dinner, but your ‘sweet belly’ is awake and just needs to eat something. Or perhaps over-eaten in a social situation? Your friends and family are having starters and desserts, so you have them too.

This is a consequence of mindless eating and not formed of necessity. Next time you feel like you are craving something, or are reaching for snacks, stop and think – Do I really need to eat this right now? Asking yourself this gives you a sense of mindfulness and ensures you are eating through necessity and not just habits.

It is also important to mention that mindful eating in itself is not a diet or associated with any diet plan. Mindful eating simply allows us to be present in the moment to enjoy the food we eat in every sense without distraction. Losing weight is just often a by-product of this process as we are no longer mindlessly eating or eating when we are already full and, therefore, gaining weight in the process.

Start mindful eating with, perhaps, just one meal in the day and increase this throughout the day as you get a greater understanding of mindful eating.  See if it can improve your weight loss, or thoughts of snacking throughout the day.

If you’re finding yourself eating more than usual and need to break the habits or poor relationship you’ve developed with food, give us a call and find out how we can help support you to becoming healthier and happier!

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