10 steps to mindful eating - Women's Running magazine

10 steps to mindful eating

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  October 15, 2015

Young woman holding a shopping bag full of vegetables

The concept of mindfulness is one that is growing in popularity, helping people conquer stress, set their priorities and learn to enjoy life again. It’s helpful for us runners, and can aid everything from calming pre-race nerves to finding a good breathing rhythm on long runs – and it’s also a valuable tool if you’re struggling to improve your diet. In their new book, The Mindfulness Cookbook, Dr Patrizia Collard and Helen Stephenson guide you through how to apply this principle to improve your approach to eating, and how to use it in detail when you prepare, cook and eat food. Here’s their 10 simple steps towards mindful eating.

Listen to your body

Before you pile a mountain of food on your plate or break open a family-sized bag of crisps, take a moment to listen to your physical needs. Are you hungry? If you are, how hungry are you? Serve up just enough food to satisfy the hunger of the body, rather than trying to quench the limitless desire of the mind. You’ll be much less likely to go back for more than if you simply had the packet of crispssitting on your lap.

Use smaller serving plates and bowls

Restaurant menus are generally written in a way that encourages you to eat as much as possible (and why wouldn’t they be?) but you don’t have to play that game. There is no obligation to have a starter, main course and dessert. Why not have a starter instead of a main course? Why not have tea or coffee instead of a dessert for a change? Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask for excess food to be put in a doggie-bag.

Penne with roasted cherry tomatoes and basil

Serve up at source

When serving food at home, try to plate it up by the oven or hob, rather than at the table. If the excess is on the table in front of you while you are eating, then that’s where your mind is likely to be. Studies have shown that you are likely to eat faster with
the excess in front of you. Presumably this is prompted by some survival instinct from the past, when we weren’t sure where the next meal was coming from.

Be flexible when eating out

Restaurant menus are generally written in a way that encourages you to eat as much as possible (and why wouldn’t they be?) but you don’t have to play that game. There is no obligation to have a starter, main course and dessert. Why not have a starter instead of a main course? Why not have tea or coffee instead of a  dessert for a change? Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask for excess food to be put in a doggie-bag.

Couple Eating in Restaurant

When you eat, just eat

Portion sizes are intimately related to ‘how’ we eat. For example, if you sit down at a table with a large box of chocolates and no distractions, you are unlikely to polish off the entire box. This is partly because you would be more aware of hunger levels, but also because you would probably feel greedy, embarrassed or ashamed. But when you’re watching TV, surfing the net, or involved in some other activity, this awareness can be drowned out.

Learn what a portion size is

If you want to become more mindful of portion sizes, and possibly even to follow the recommended quantities with certain foods, it can be really useful to know and understand what portion sizes are (quite different from ‘serving sizes’, incidentally, which can be frighteningly large). As a general rule, a ‘cup’ is about the size of a large tennis ball, 85g of meat comprises the size of a deck of cards and 30g cheese is about the size of a domino. This may help you to avoid having to weigh everything.

Think little and often

Many people overeat at meals because they are worried they might feel hungry later on. The body doesn’t really work like this and all overeating tends to do is increase the dramatic swings in blood-sugar levels that will, in all likelihood, have you reaching for the biscuit tin. Try to maintain a stable blood-sugar level and moderate level of satiety by eating small meals throughout the day, rather than just a couple of ridiculously large meals.

Close up side view of a young woman eating apple

Have a salad as a starter

We often dive into large portions of rich and colourdense foods simply because we’re hungry. The truth is, in these situations, we’re often so hungry that we’d eat just about anything. So be smart and eat some raw vegetables or salad to burn off that extreme hunger before the meal itself. That way you will not feel the same need to overindulge in richer tasting foods.

Have a glass of water before eating

The sensation of thirst is often confused with the feeling of hunger, so that whenever we feel thirsty, we tend to reach out for a snack, or, if about to serve up a meal, we’re likely to put more food on the plate. To ensure that you are listening to the right signals, sip a good-sized glass of water in the 10 to 15 minutes leading up to a meal. This way you can be sure that you are serving up only what the body actually needs.

Shop smart

Bulk-buying foods can often enable you to pick up some great bargains, but you know your own mind. If you are unable or unwilling to break those down into smaller portion sizes when you get home, then consider the possibility of buying smaller versions. While you may not get the same value fo money, take a moment to think of the cost (financial, physical, mental and emotional) of overeating large portions
of food.

Buying food at the supermarket

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