What is mindful eating and what are the benefits of mindful eating?

Mindful Eating Chef preparing

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Originally Published: 2018-07-13

It’s a brand new year ahead of you and your gut tells you to be more mindful and to start eating healthy. Unexpected weight gain during the pandemic is not unheard of. The lockdown has led everyone to either stress eat, increase snacking, and decrease physical activities while staying home. How do we keep our gut in check? Harvard Health Publishing reported that there is a strong connection between mind and gut. A series of hormonal signals connect our gut and central nervous system during the digestion process. During this time, the brain requires almost 20 minutes to understand the process of filling our stomach. Fast eating often results in overeating and may cause metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, certain types of cancers, and other related ailments. Several identified factors such as serving size, visual cues, or any other situation where our attention is drawn from noticing our satiety cues can be termed as unmindful eating.

Unmindful eating is one of the primary reasons for overeating and obesity. People often engage themselves in browsing online while eating or watching television. Even cognitive stress during exam preparation can sometimes trigger overeating. According to Public Health Canada, 64% of Canadians over the age of 18 are obese or overweight. Intermittent snacking has gained popularity but the unmindful eating of these snacks contributes to the consumption of high sugar, salt, and fatty diets when snacking on processed foods. Nutritionists encourage mindful eating and eating healthy foods to maintain glycemic control and overall well-being.

What is mindful eating?

The Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training program has defined mindful eating to involve conscious food selection, alertness of physical versus psychological hunger, the consciousness of satiety cues, and the allocation of sufficient time for eating. In other words, it can be described as an application of attentive awareness while eating a snack or a meal. Mindful eating can be considered a type of weight loss diet, but it emphasizes the process of eating rather than shrinkage of food quantity. It is a stepwise process of practicing awareness of both the physical and emotional aspects of eating. In the first step, one becomes aware of the sense organs involved in eating which include smell, taste, color, and the texture of the food eaten. In the second step, one becomes aware of poor eating habits such as eating during multitasking or unconsciously eating past the satiation point. In the third step, one identifies the triggering factors which influence eating initiation and termination.

During these uncertain times, your customers more than ever appreciate the value of good nutrition, and what better way to cater to this need than with a tool that analyzes your menu and food products? Help them be more mindful. What are the benefits of mindful eating?

Mindful eating is a novel intervention to improve overall health. Researchers found that mindful eating has the capacity to ameliorate depression, anxiety, faulty eating habits, food cravings, eating disorders, and weight management. Apart from these particular health issues, mindful eating is effective to control some chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes. Mindful eating combined with a smart selection of food comes under self-management in diabetic care. A clinical trial has been conducted for a period of 3 months to evaluate the benefits of mindful eating on type 2 diabetic patients. The study result showed improvement in glycemic control and dietary intake along with modest weight loss. These factors are important in reducing diabetes-related morbidity. Adherence to mindful eating habits with a smart selection of food items can significantly reduce hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) value. These health benefits can surely be helpful for type 2 diabetic patients.

A workshop was conducted in Canada to promote mindful eating practices for individuals suffering from eating disorders. It was addressed in the workshop that mindful eating and mindful exercise can help to resolve eating disorders, prevent weight gain, and assist to maintain a healthy BMI in bariatric patients. Mindful eating tools were given to help prevent overeating and emotional eating without causing anorexia.

Mindful eating is key to good health

Mindful eating can significantly reduce overeating habits, which directly relate to obesity. Overeating related obesity is a common symptom of individuals having compulsive behavior disorders. Scientists reported that mindfulness has an inhibitory effect against automatic responses, and also improves cognition, behavioral and emotional flexibility, especially for individuals who suffer from compulsive behavior disorders. A research study reported that controlling eating by learning a new habit is better than punishment-based reversal learning in patients with a compulsive behavior disorder. In addition, it is expected that practicing mindful eating will also improve behavioral flexibility, increase self-compassion and reduce stress levels.

During lockdowns, it’s harder to ignore your customers’ need to improve their quality of life through the food that they consume. Though this need increases, it’s even harder for them to be more mindful whilst spending so much time indoors. By allowing them to see the nutritional value of the food that you provide, it helps your customers make better, healthier choices in the end.

Mindful eating improves eating habits

The challenge these days is finding a way to manage healthy eating habits. Amidst the public health crisis, consumers find it tough to get back into their exercise routines and reintroduce good nutrition back into their diets.

Adopting mindful eating habits helps to broaden one’s palate and improve taste perceptions. This is particularly beneficial for picky eaters so they can add more nutritious and varied food items to their diet. Mindful eating is also linked to breaking overeating habits. A human trial conducted on Canadian high school students revealed that mindful eating practices significantly decreased the consumption of automatic snacking habits and improved the likelihood of the student trying healthy snack foods over unhealthy ones.

Reduction of unhealthy snacking habits and increasing the intake of healthy foods like fresh fruits can help individuals increase their physical and mental endurance and overcome cognitive stress while working from home.

To promote mindful eating, a training program was provided to a group of obese people. Through the training program, one outcome was that mindful eating has the potential to significantly reduce stress that can lead to nervous breakdowns. Furthermore, it was seen that mindful eating improves one’s state of self-awareness, increases concentration, and prevents the tendency to perform an action or thought process that contributes to anxiety. It also helps to increase self-control to limit overeating behaviors.

How to practice mindful eating

Experts suggested some self-help methods to build up mindful eating habits, and these are as follows:

  • Mindful eating helps to retain food memories. If anybody fails to remember what they had in their last meal, then they must maintain a food diary to record all the details including the name of food items in each meal, amount of the items, time of the meal, and also the mood before taking food.
  • If any external factor triggers eating without hunger, try to distract yourself by taking a walk or doing another healthy activity.
  • Eat only 80 percent of your appetite and if that satisfies your hunger, then leave the dining room.
  • If anybody has a frequent snacking habit, then take fresh-cut fruits or vegetables instead of processed food items.
  • Activities like watching television or internet surfing can also increase eating by 10 percent and by 25 percent if done while eating a meal. It has been found from research studies that food memories of the previous meal are able to reduce 10 percent of the food intake of the next meal.

Nutrition Analysis Software

We are what we eat. This saying perfectly fits into the concept of mindful eating. Now more than ever, it’s important for us to promote healthy options through our menus. Mindful eating is nothing but a conscious effort of knowing what’s in your food and when and how to eat. We can make it easy for you with our nutritional analysis software, MenuSano. MenuSano’s nutrition analysis software helps individuals and restaurants to be mindful of the calories and nutritional value of their dishes. The best part is that you can try it for free. Subscribe today for a free trial.

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