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Mindful eating - perfects the art of eating, bringing health and joy!


health treats in bed

As I sit here writing about mindful eating I decided to take a break to eat a mandarin. It felt strangely smooth in my hands, it's the type with the thin skin close to the flesh of the mandarin. I start peeling, and the citrus scent hits my nose giving me the boost of alertness I was needing before I even place a piece in my mouth. I look at it while I slowly peel the pieces apart and put them one by one in my mouth, slowly chewing and noticing the flavours, juice and texture. I think to myself I should always eat this way, this is the best mandarin I have ever tasted. My goal for the next few months is to focus on my mindful eating and see how it changes my life. Try this for the next few months and see how it positively changes your eating habits before the Christmas season.



What is Mindful eating?


Mindful eating, is the non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations while eating, or while in food-related environments1. It is a subset of the broader philosophy of mindfulness, the intentional focus on one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment, without interpretation or judgement. You are aware of rather than reacting to, your situation and choices.


Mindful eating consists of making conscious food choices, developing an awareness of physical v. psychological hunger and satiety cues2, and eating in response to those cues3. It is being aware of the present moment when one is eating4, paying close attention to the effect of the food on the senses, and noting the physical and emotional responses to eating5.


Using all of your physical and emotional senses to experience your food choices

makes you grateful, present, and encourages better food choices that nourish and satisfy the body. It is not about judging your eating, more about watching and being present on how certain foods make us feel, which will make us more aware and benefit better choices going forward.


Intuitive eating is a discreet, but complimentary term, often used interchangeably with mindful eating. Both intuitive and mindful eating concentrate on internally focused eating, but intuitive eating does not involve the meditation.6


How to mindfully eat?


The principles of mindful eating are listening to internal cues of the body (ie, hunger and satiety) to avoid overconsumption. Working with external cues; reducing portion sizes and distractions while eating, eating slowly to assist in achieving awareness.



small plate japanese feast

Tips for mindful eating

Look and bond with your food before starting.

Be grateful for the processes going into your food.

Chewing food thoroughly and thoughtfully before swallowing.

Savouring the aroma and taste of food.

Using smaller plates and bowls.

Turning off television and computer while eating.

Create a pleasurable experience around food and eating.


There are multiple principles that constitute mindful eating but the following 5 principles of mindful eating will be discussed further in this blog.



Savour your food

Fresh produce

Taking time to look at your food before you start eating, honour the food, the energy that has gone into growing the food, how it has been prepared, recognising the cook. Engage your senses to look at the colours, smells, textures, notice how you feel when eating them. Feeling the texture in your mouth and flavours on your tongue makes it an enjoyable process where you are taking joy from food. Finding joy in our life is a positive thing we are often all looking for, why not make something we do often a day more joyful?



Eating rate

eating healthy food slowly

A basic principle of mindful eating is reducing the rate of food we eat in a sitting. Take pauses periodically to engage your senses. Savour small bites and chew thoroughly (20-30 times) using your saliva and mastication as the first process of breaking down your food. This takes pressure off your stomach. It is also thought that it will reduce your energy intake by allowing time for satiety signals to register within the brain (around 20minutes).7,8

It is hypothesised that due to the time delay between swallowing, digestion and absorption of food and nutrients that the feeling of satiation is delayed, supporting the thought of reducing eating rate.9


A meta-analysis study which analysed 22 peer reviewed studies on the experimental eating rate in a various age range of participants, excluding people with clinically diagnosed eating disorders, showed that regardless of the varying methods and manipulations eating slower results in significant reductions in food intake.10



Awareness if you are hungry or full.

Hunger and satiety awareness are the next basic principle of mindful eating.

Stress induced or emotional eating, that is, eating in response to positive or negative emotional cues12-14 has been cited as contributing to excess energy intake and weight gain. Before eating you should check in with yourself. Are you eating due to emotions such as stress, sadness, happiness or the internal que of hunger. You should eat when hungry but not starving, eating when starving can cause you to make bad choices becuase you don’t take time to listen to yourself.


Satiation is a result of a complex mechanism of physiological, chemical and mechanical factors associated with the pre and post-absorption of food and nutrients.9 Meal termination is determined through stomach distention and various gut hormones8-11. Best recommendations of health is to stop eating when you start to feel around 80% full.



Portion sizes

Small plates of food

Reduce portion sizes is a basic principle of mindful eating. A study that used self-refilling soup bowls showed that participants using these ate 73% more soup that those eating from a normal soup bowl. The researchers determined that people rely on the external cues of the amount of food left on plate to help determine fullness but should use internal cues of hunger and fullness instead.

So be mindful and listen to yourself.



Distractions while eating

Another basic principle of mindful eating is reducing distractions during eating. One of the first processes of the digestion system is the viewing of the food, if you are watching tv or reading, this fundamental part of the process is diminished. Research has shown that watching tv while eating increases the consumption of high-fat foods, frequency of meals and overall daily intake of calories.18-20


working while eating lunch

Researchers also investigated whether undergraduates in differing situations would change the amount they ate. The design was set up that students ate high density food such as pizza or macaroni and cheese while watching tv vs listening to a symphony. Students ate 36% more pizza and 71% more macaroni and cheese watching tv rather than listening to music.19 This could be indicating that being distracted reduces the ability to listen and assess internal sensory cues such as taste perception and satiation that leads to overeating.18-21



Results

Many studies and research has been done on mindful eating. The assessment of mindful eating is a Mindful eating questionnaire (MEQ). Studies have shown that Higher body mass index scores are associated with lower MEQ score, suggesting that mindful eating could be used as a weight maintenance method. It has not shown to reduce BMI, but is more an indicator of peoples relationship with food. It has been utilised to treat behaviours associated with overweight and obesity through things such as binge eating, problematic eating behaviours, and food cravings and has shown to increase positive attitudes and behaviours towards eating.22-23


Conclusion

Mindful eating increases your health around food choices in a nonjudgemental way, it is taking the time to observe our body’s internal and external cues regarding a fundamental aspect of our life. It adds more joy to something we do often, making us make better choices. It slows us down to appreciate something that sustains us and brings joy giving the body more time to tell us it is full without adding too much content to our over full stomachs. How often have you sat down busily to eat and haven’t even noticed what you put in your mouth, where it all went and felt overfull and uncomfortable afterwards.


My goal to you is to try this mindful eating for a few months. Take the MEQ test that is attached to this blog and make an effort for a month. Take this test again in a months time and see if you have changed your score. See how this has changed your relationship with your food and your eating. See if this sets you in a good position for the Christmas festive season.


Leave a comment on how your find this practice.



Mindful eating questionnaire (MEQ)
Mindful Eating Questionnaire


References

1. Bishop, SR, Lau, M, Shapiro, S, et al. (2004) Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clin Psych Sci Pract 11, 230–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2. Dalen, J, Smith, BW, Shelley, BM, et al. (2010) Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complement Ther Med 18, 260–264.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

3. Miller, CK, Kristeller, JL, Headings, A, et al. (2014) Comparison of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Health Educ Behav 41, 145–154.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

4. Hendrickson, KL & Rasmussen, EB (2013) Effects of mindful eating training on delay and probability discounting for food and money in obese and healthy-weight individuals. Behav Res Ther 51, 399–409.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

5. Kristeller, JL, Wolever, RQ & Sheets, V (2014) Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) for binge eating: a randomized clinical trial. Mindfulness 5, 282–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6. Mathieu, J (2009) What should you know about mindful and intuitive eating? J Am Diet Assoc 109, 1982–1987.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

7. Stuart RB, Davis B. Slim Chance in a Fat World: Behavioral Control of Obesity. Champaign, IL: Research Press; 1972.

8. Cummings DE, Overduin J. Gastrointestinal regulation of food intake. J Clin Invest. 2007;117:13-23. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

9. Plata-Salamán CR. Regulation of hunger and satiety in man. Dig Dis. 1991;9:253-268. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

10. Robinson E, Almiron-Roig E, Rutters F, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of eating rate on energy intake and hunger. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100:123-151. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

11. de Graaf C, Blom WA, Smeets PA, Stafleu A, Hendriks HF. Biomarkers of satiation and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79:946-961. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

12. Macht M, Simons G. Emotions and eating in everyday life. Appetite. 2000;35:65-71. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

13. Konttinen H, Mannisto S, Sarlio-Lahteenkorva S, Silventoinen K, Haukkala A. Emotional eating, depressive symptoms and self-reported food consumption. A population-based study. Appetite. 2010;54:473-479. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

14. Laitinen J, Ek E, Sovio U. Stress-related eating and drinking behavior and body mass index and predictors of this behavior. Prev Med. 2002;34:29-39. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

15. Wansink B, Painter JE, North J. Bottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size may influence intake. Obes Res. 2005;13:93-100. Crossref. PubMed.

16. Young LR, Nestle M. Reducing portion sizes to prevent obesity: a call to action. AM J Prev Med 2012;43:565-568

17. Ello-Martin JA, Ledikwe JH, Rolls BJ. The influence of food portion size and energy density on energy intake: implications for weight management. AM J Clin Nutr. 2005:82(1suppl):236S-241S

18. 16. Blass EM, Anderson DR, Kirkorian HL, Pempek TA, Price I, Koleini MF. On the road to obesity: television viewing increases intake of high-density foods. Physiol Behav. 2006;88:597-604. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

19. Gore SA, Foster JA, DiLillo VG, Kirk K, Smith West D. Television viewing and snacking. Eat Behav. 2003;4:399-405. Crossref. PubMed.

20. Stroebele N, de Castro JM. Television viewing is associated with an increase in meal frequency in humans. Appetite. 2004;42:111-113. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

21. 19. van der Wal RC, van Dillen LF. Leaving a flat taste in your mouth: task load reduces taste perception. Psychol Sci. 2013;124:1277-1284. Crossref. ISI.

22. Wallis DJ, Hetherington MM. Stress and eating: the effects of ego-threat and cognitive demand on food intake in restrained and emotional eaters. Appetite. 2004;43:39-46. Crossref. PubMed. ISI.

23. Wansink B. From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Physiol Behav. 2010;100:454-463.





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