Early in 2014, researchers published a review in the professional journal Eating Behaviors of 14 studies that looked at mindful meditation as the main intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss.
The authors concluded that while mindfulness training does reduce episodes of binge and emotional eating in some people, more research is necessary to compare mindful meditation to other types of support, and to measure its long-term effects.
So on the one hand I cannot, with full scientific backing, guarantee that mindful behavior will help control your overeating, emotional eating or weight, especially in the long term. But I have taught mindful eating for decades – back to when dietitians referred to it less reverently as “behavior modification” – and have seen the benefits of eating mindfully first hand.
There is ample evidence about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation across all domains of life. At its core, living mindfully is about awareness and intention.
When you create an intention to become more aware of the type of food you eat and your eating habits, you become more thoughtful about your diet and more careful about what you put in your mouth. You are more likely to eat more quality foods and less quantity, and less likely to make random, spontaneous and often unhealthy choices.
With that in mind, here are 5 ways to infuse intention and awareness into your eating:
1. Always eat in the same spot
Choose one place to eat in your home and stick to it as often as possible. Whether a snack or a meal, narrowing down the places you associate with food and eating will help prevent random eating, snacking and binging.
2. Set a complete table
Even when you’re alone, by setting a proper table – place mat, utensils, napkin and a pitcher of water – you invite respect to your eating and increase your attention. Don’t even take a bite until the table setting is complete.
3. Don’t do anything else
No TV, no computer, no phone, no to-do list. Eliminating these behaviors removes distractions and eliminates any underlying associations you might subconsciously be making between these activities and eating.
4. Use small plates and serve yourself small portions
This is great way to trick yourself into eating less and there’s plenty of research that backs this up – we’re more likely to eat less when there’s less on the plate or in the bowl. Over time, smaller portions won’t seem so small.
5. Eat slowly
Put your fork down between mouthfuls, consciously chew and savor the taste. The slower you eat, the more likely you are to eat a reasonable amount and the sooner you’ll recognize when you’re full.
© Susan McQuillan