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How to Eat Mindfully - A Mindful Eating Script

Practicing mindful eating has taken a devious turn. Like most things in pseudoscience, there is a scientific benefit that gets twisted into a marketing scheme used to peddle supplements, diets, or misinformed "hacks" from the fitness industry. For example, I lose my cool when I see the advice that eating off a smaller plate is mindful eating. No, no my friends, that is restricting your calories by using smaller portions. Which is fine if that's what you want to do, but don't tell me that's mindfulness. So what is mindfulness?




Mindful eating is an approach to consuming food that involves paying FULL attention to the experience of eating, without judgment. It means to be:

  • fully present in the moment

  • observing the sensory experiences (taste, aroma, texture, temperatures etc)

  • acknowledging the thoughts and emotions that arise without reacting to them impulsively.


So, does that sound like just eating off a smaller plate? Didn't think so... I'm sure if you come from a history of dieting you can imagine how this opposes most dieting rules: "Eat this, at this time, and in this amount". Most people get frustrated at the idea of mindfulness because they prefer to just be told what to eat. I understand that. But removing your autonomy from your choices around eating is central to the fad diet cycle: each failure of a diet reinforces that you NEED to be on a diet, and over time you lose trust in yourself. Mindful eating involves tuning into hunger and satiety cues, making intentional food choices, and cultivating a non-judgmental awareness of one's relationship with food. I'm going to dive into some science behind HOW this happens along with other benefits of mindfulness, if you want a generalized script on how to practice mindful eating skip here.




The Science of Mindfulness (because it's me, hello)

Practicing mindfulness, including mindful eating, can lead to various changes in the brain. Studies have shown that regular mindfulness practice can result in structural and functional changes in regions of the brain associated with attention, emotion regulation, and self-awareness. For example, mindfulness meditation has been linked to increased gray matter density in areas such as the prefrontal cortex (what you've heard me call the "adulting" part of your brain), which is involved in executive functioning and decision-making, and the insula, which plays a role in interoception (sensing internal bodily states).


Additionally, mindfulness practice has been found to modulate activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in processing emotions and stress responses. This can lead to reduced reactivity to emotional stimuli and greater emotional resilience over time. Furthermore, mindfulness has been shown to enhance connectivity between brain regions involved in attention and cognitive control, leading to improved concentration and cognitive flexibility. This means your tolerance to deal with BS increases and the likelihood you'll lose your cool decreases - less reactive.


Peer-reviewed evidence on mindfulness and health suggests that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can have positive effects on various aspects of physical and mental health. Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of mindfulness in reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Mindfulness has also been associated with improvements in sleep quality, immune function, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being. Remember how I always say your brain is wired for survival, not happiness? Practicing mindfulness can be like practicing happiness!


In the context of eating behaviour and weight management, research indicates that mindful eating practices can lead to healthier eating behaviours, improved self-regulation, and better weight management outcomes. Studies have shown that individuals who practice mindful eating tend to have lower levels of disordered eating behaviours, reduced emotional eating, and greater satisfaction with their eating experiences. Mindfulness-based interventions targeting eating behaviour have been shown to promote healthier eating habits, decrease binge eating episodes, and improve body image.




HOW TO EAT MINDFULLY

Before I write this script, just a bit of forewarning. Since hyper-palatable foods SOAK the tastebuds to flavourtown and light up our brain, I suggest practicing mindfulness with a balanced nourishing meal, it will be more difficult to detect satiety and overall satisfaction when your brain is lit up with the sky on the 4th of July. Two other distractions to avoid are exhaustion/sleepiness, and sensory distractions ie: phone, TV, tiny humans demanding your attention. These are examples of chronic blocks to mindfulness and temporary ones. Chronic include tiredness as your brain is not optimally thinking, and temporary is only when you are getting started with this practice.... trust me hearing "mama, mama, mom! mom! mama!" when you're trying to get in tune and you may only make it through one bite not the whole practice. But keep trying especially if you get the luxury of alone time.... O.K. here goes:


Mindful Eating and Nourishment Practice:

Begin by finding a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit down to enjoy a meal without distractions. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and bring your awareness to the present moment.


As you prepare your meal, take notice of the colours, textures, and aromas of the food in front of you. Allow yourself to appreciate the effort and care that went into preparing the meal, whether it was made by yourself or someone else.


Take a moment to check in with your body and assess your level of hunger. Notice any physical sensations in your stomach and any thoughts or emotions that arise when thinking about eating. Are you feeling hungry, satisfied, or somewhere in between?


As you begin to eat, take small bites and chew slowly, savouring the flavours and textures of each bite. Notice the sensations of taste, texture, and temperature as the food touches your tongue and travels down your throat.


With each bite, check in with your body to see how it responds. Does the food bring you a sense of satisfaction and nourishment? Do you feel more energized and focused as you eat?


As you continue to eat mindfully, pay attention to any signals your body may be sending you about hunger and satiation. Notice when your hunger begins to diminish and when you start to feel satisfied. Trust your body's cues to guide you in knowing when you've had enough to eat.


Throughout the meal, periodically pause to take a few deep breaths and check in with yourself. Ask your body what it needs and how you can best nourish it in this moment. Listen attentively to any responses that arise, whether they come in the form of physical sensations, emotions, or intuitive insights.


As you near the end of the meal, take a moment to express gratitude for the nourishment and sustenance the food has provided. Reflect on the interconnectedness of food, your body, and the earth that sustains us all.

When you're ready, slowly bring the practice to a close, taking a few more deep breaths to center yourself before moving on with your day.



Practicing mindful eating and nourishment can help you develop a deeper connection with your body's hunger and satiation cues, cultivate gratitude for the food you eat, and foster a more mindful approach to nourishing yourself both physically and emotionally. I'm so passionate about helping others feel confident and clear the clutter of disordered thoughts out of their heads. What to take this to another level? Try mindful movement as well, using similar trains of reflection in the gym, when you're moving your body, or in yoga! Contact me to learn more about 1:1 coaching, a stand-alone session, or presenting this topic to your group.


-Bridget



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