March is Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Good for YOU! Dietitians Help You Find Your Healthy”. The focus is for dietitians to help you find your healthy as healthy eating looks different for everyone.
Therefore, there is no better time to chat about mindful eating! If you are new to the concept, we will explore what mindful eating is, tips for implementing mindfulness, and the benefits. In fact, Canada’s food guide suggests practicing mindful eating habits as an essential component to maintaining a balanced lifestyle since healthy eating is more than the foods you eat.
Mindful eating is shifting your attention to listening to your body’s needs, natural hunger cues, fullness, and being present during mealtime. Adopting this lifestyle can help you get in touch with your eating behaviours and focus on intentional eating while reconnecting with your overall food experience to discover what healthy looks like for you.
Food is an essential part of our lives that is engrained in many aspects of our lives – socially, traditionally, and emotionally, to name a few. Therefore, having a moment where you are able to connect with a meaningful part of life while breaking up the day-to-day craze that university life brings can have a positive effect.
Try focusing on what influences your food choices in the moment, as that can have a significant impact on your eating experience. For example, our body gives us signals when it is in need of an extra boost of energy – your stomach might start grumbling or you may start to lose focus on a specific task – time to nourish and refuel!
Simple tips on how to shape mindful eating habits:
- Establish a healthy eating environment. Your environment changes based on where you live, work, study, or unwind. Living on campus and eating in dining halls can have limitations in regard to making personalized changes to your eating environment. Though, you might choose to sit by the window, eat in a quieter area of the dining hall, or eat with close friends!
- Use your senses. Focus on the taste, smell, textures, colours, and sounds of your food. This can help you reflect on your personal preferences, how you feel, and what you appreciate about certain foods and dishes.
- Reflect on your eating habits. Canada’s food guide suggests reflecting on the last meal or snack that you had. If you can describe how you ate, why you ate, what you ate, when you ate, where you ate, and how much you ate, you were probably eating mindfully!
- Eating without distractions. As busy as life is it can be difficult to make time to carve out time to eat without distractions. A few simple changes you can make are to dedicate half an hour to eat distraction free by setting aside any task you may be working on or putting your phone and technology away while you eat.
- Pause between bites. Avoid rushing meal and snack time by eating slowly and putting your utensils/food down between bites. This will help you enjoy your food more, notice how full you are, and nurture a positive relationship with food.
- Eat together. Eating with others can help establish a scheduled meeting time to eat, create a more enjoyable communal eating experience, and expose you to new foods that your friends or family enjoy eating.
The benefits of eating mindfully:
- Healthier food choices for YOU. Mindfulness can help you determine which foods make you feel your best, what you enjoy the most, and certain food-related activities you prefer!
- Positive changes to eating behaviours. As a mindful eater you decide what serves your lifestyle best – whether it be your eating environment, preferred foods, or mealtime! With time, old eating habits that didn’t serve you will lessen if you consciously prioritize the new positive changes that feel right for you.
- Sense of awareness. Getting in tune with your eating habits and preferences can help you gain self-awareness on what drives your food choices and pleasure when eating.
- Reconnect with your eating experience. Eating mindfully can lead to connecting with your eating experience as a whole especially with an increased awareness of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. You might stop to think where the food you’re enjoying came from or remember a joyful memory/food tradition.
The major takeaway is to remain in the moment, listen to your body’s natural cues, and appreciate mealtime without restricting foods you love. Mindful eating can help shape a long-term balanced relationship to food that works best for your lifestyle and needs.