You sit at your computer, surrounded by books and piles of notes, with half a dozen tabs open on your laptop. You’ve got Netflix streaming in the background, and in between four different ongoing text message conversations, you’re somehow managing to scroll through Facebook all while shoveling dinner into your mouth. Ah, multitasking at its finest.
It’s a pretty common scenario for the majority of university students. An abundance of time is a luxury that few of us have, and dedicated time for eating meals is often the first thing to go. While juggling eating with other activities seems like a time-saver now, it can result in missing out in the long run.
What is Mindful Eating?
The concept of “mindful eating” aims to address the distractions that so often plague our mealtimes. The central principle of mindful eating is that when we’re eating, we should focus all of our attention on it. That means turning off the laptop, putting away the cell phone, and closing the books.
Mindful eating also places emphasis on paying attention to the senses involved with eating. That means paying attention not only to the taste of your food, but also to the smell, texture, appearance and even the sound of what you’re eating.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
While directing so much attention to such a routine behavior may feel weird at first, many positive health benefits can be linked to this mindfulness practice.
Although mindful eating is more of a lifestyle change than a diet, it’s been shown to help in sustainable, long-term weight loss. Obesity is an epidemic in our society, partially because we’re becoming increasingly disconnected from our food and our bodies. By directing our attention back to the process of eating, we can be more perceptive of the satiety and hunger signals that our body is sending us. This can result in eating smaller portions, as well as a reduction in “boredom eating.” Recently, mindful eating has shown potential as a behavioural therapy for binge-eating disorders.
By paying more attention when we’re eating, we can also get more out of our food experiences. When was the last time you employed all five senses while eating? By slowing down and being present, we’re able to experience so much more compared to wolfing down food just to move on to the next task.
How to Eat Mindfully
In an ideal world, we would be one-hundred percent mentally present for every meal, but that’s a lot easier said than done. There are, however, several ways to incorporate the main principles of mindful eating into your life, even as a busy student.
Sometimes eating at your desk or in the library is unavoidable, but make an effort to keep eating distractions to a minimum. Try not to fill the “chewing time” with empty Newsfeed scrolling or Instagram creeping, and use the eating time as a break from studying.
If approaching every meal with the mindful approach seems daunting, try incorporating the practice with one meal each week, and then increase as it becomes more natural.
It might sound like mindful eating means the end of enjoying beer and nachos with friends or popcorn at the movies, but the whole point of mindful eating isn’t to deprive oneself of fun, food-related activities.
The main thing to take away is to be present and to enjoy food and the experience of eating. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Pay attention to how your body feels before and after food.
These simple yet incredibly powerful principles have the power to change the way you eat, and even further, your entire relationship with food.