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Mindful eating: a key to avoiding binge eating and improving health

Slowing down and focussing on the meal in front of you gives your brain time to register a feeling of fullness and helps avoid overeating

It is easy to lose track over how much you are eating when you are watching TV or scrolling down your phone(Pexels/KoolShooters)

By Dr. Siddhant Bhargava

LAST PUBLISHED 17.12.2023  |  03:00 PM IST

In a world full of distractions, eating has become more of a rushed task than a mindful practice. Most of us consume our meals in a rush, often eating on the go or multitasking. We never truly pay attention to what or how much we are eating. This absence of mindfulness in eating habits can cause binge eating—a pattern of eating large quantities of food in a short amount of time, repeatedly followed by a feeling of loss of control.

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However, there is a simple yet powerful solution to this common issue: mindful eating. Mindful eating involves being fully present and aware during meals, focusing on the sensory experience of eating, and paying attention to hunger cues. This practice can significantly reduce binge eating episodes by fostering a healthier relationship with food.

At its core, mindful eating is about slowing down and savouring every bite. It starts with tuning into your body's hunger signals. Ask yourself if you are eating because you are actually hungry or if it is because of apathy, tension, or habit. By recognizing genuine hunger, you become in tune with your body's needs, preventing impulsive eating that often leads to overconsumption.

Another essential aspect of mindful eating is paying attention to the sensory aspects of food. Chew slowly and thoroughly, allowing yourself to fully experience each mouthful. Notice the colours, textures, smells, and flavours of what you are eating. This not only enhances your enjoyment of food but also gives your brain time to register feelings of fullness, preventing excessive eating.

Many emotional factors like stress, anxiety, or sadness trigger binge eating. Mindful eating helps overcome these triggers by encouraging a non-judgmental awareness of thoughts and feelings associated with food. Instead of turning to food as a coping mechanism, mindfulness helps individuals acknowledge their emotions without using food as an escape. This awareness empowers individuals to make conscious choices about their eating habits, reducing eating triggered by emotions.

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Incorporating mindfulness into your eating routine does not have to be complicated. Start by trying these simple tips:

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• Turn off screens and focus entirely on your meal.

• Take a minute to value the food on your plate and where it came from.

• Put your utensils down in the middle of bites and masticate without hurrying.

• Ask yourself how hungry you are before, during, and after eating.

Avoiding distractions during meals is crucial for cultivating mindfulness. When you are engaged in other activities like watching TV, working, or scrolling through your phone, it is easy to lose track of how much you are eating. Such distractions can disconnect you from the sensory experience of eating and lead to overconsumption.

Portion control is another significant aspect of mindful eating. Perceiving suitable portion sizes helps in putting a stop to overeating. Using smaller plates, bowls, and utensils can visually trick your mind into feeling satisfied with smaller amounts of food.

However, mindful eating is not a quick fix, but rather a lifelong approach to fostering a healthier relationship with food. By cultivating mindfulness during meals, individuals can prevent binge and junk eating, improve digestion, and ultimately, develop a more balanced and enjoyable way of eating. Taking the time to savour and appreciate each bite can lead to not just physical nourishment but also a deeper connection with oneself and the food we consume.

Dr. Siddhant Bhargava is a fitness and nutritional scientist and co-founder of Food Darzee.

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