Deliberately eating at a slow pace could help you shed extra kilos. Nutritionists have dubbed this alternative approach ‘mindful eating’. It harks back to the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which can be summed up in a line as being fully aware of the present moment. One propagator was Horace Fletcher, an early 20th century food faddist, who believed that chewing food thoroughly is the solution to many health problems. New research proves that he was right.
I am a new convert to mindful eating, having forgotten the art in my tweens. I have rediscovered it in my quest for taking things slow and leading a minimalist life.
Kills junk food craving
Mindful eating has medical benefits too. Studies say it could relieve stress and alleviate high blood pressure and overeating. Research from the University of California research concluded that practicing mindfulness lets us make more thoughtful food choices, whether we are full or satiated.
Dr Jennifer Daubenmier, who led the research, said:
“Whether eating snacks while watching a cricket match or grazing by the dessert counter at the coffee shop, we often find ourselves overeating not because we’re hungry, but because the food looks good, we’re distracted or to soothe unpleasant feelings.”
Backed by research
Psychologist Jean Kristeller at Indiana State University and a team at Duke University conducted a study of mindful eating techniques for the treatment of binge eating, which included 150 binge eaters and compared a mindfulness-based therapy to a standard psycho-educational treatment and a control group of binge eaters. The people in the mindfulness-based therapy group enjoyed their food more and struggled less with controlling their eating.
How to practise mindful eating
- Eat without distractions. Yes, that means not looking at the television, radio, cellphone or laptop until you finish the meal. Face-to-face conversations are allowed.
- Take as much time as you can to eat; at least 20 minutes for each meal.
- Taste each morsel. If you can think about the ingredients that went into each dish, you are already acing the technique.
- Allow yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.
- Use all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
- Acknowledge your immediate responses to meals (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.
- Become acutely aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.
Source: Center for Mindful Eating, a US-based non-profit organisation.
The center stands by the belief that
“Our relationship to food is a central one that reflects our attitudes toward our environment and ourselves. As a practice, mindful eating can bring us awareness of our own actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations, and insight into the roots of health and contentment.”
In my own weight loss journey, I wouldn’t be able to quantify exactly how much mindful eating has contributed. I made drastic changes in routine, exercise and food at the same time that I was advised by a family member to practise mindful eating.
What I can say for certain, however, is that it has curbed my craving for sugar and carbs unbelievably fast. I am eating practically the same foods (with a variation in protein) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, yet the level of satiation is higher than my food critic days (when eating at new restaurants was a twice-a-week activity). In fact, the last time I ate at a restaurant was almost three months back. I feel more satisfied eating less (so I end up consuming much fewer calories than my Kumbhkaran days).
If I do eat something rich, I enjoy it a lot more now. I don’t find fault with the ingredients and the method like my former food critic self did. In fact, I am so busy being thankful for the gift of nourishment that I can’t get myself to complain.
Mindful eating is a journey of a thousand miles that begins with the first step of chewing slowly. Remember that adage about chewing a morsel 32 times before swallowing it?
(A version of this post first appeared on the website Alldatmatterz.com)