The dos and don’ts of mindful eating

Published 29 February, 2016

Healthy eating isn’t just about fresh ingredients and portion control. Your mental approach to food plays a huge part in creating a healthier, slimmer and happier you. And it all begins with some simple dos and don’ts.

The Dos

Do… Start with your shopping list
‘Make sure you feel calm and focused when you write it,’ says mindfulness expert and founder of Headspace Andy Puddicombe. ‘Then ask yourself: “What does my body need to be at its very best ?” Try to make all your food choices with this in mind.

Do… Savour your food
‘Take time to notice the smell, flavour and texture of each mouthful,’ says Andy. ‘Even if it’s a food you eat often, treat it as a different experience each time.’ You’ll enjoy every meal more – and eat less.

Do… Follow the ‘mouth full, hands empty’ mantra
‘Put cutlery down between mouthfuls to slow your eating,’ says therapist Sally Baker, co-author of 7 Simple Steps To Stop Emotional Eating. Doing so can increase the response of gut peptides that make you feel full. ‘Before each forkful, ask if you’re still hungry.’

Do… Pause before you go back for seconds
Do you really want more? Instead of putting them on the dining table, keep big serving bowls of food out of sight in the kitchen, so it isn’t too easy to refill your plate.

RELATED: How to tell if you're really hungry

The Don’ts

Don’t… Eat while you’re distracted
Research has found eating while reading, watching TV or looking at a computer not only means you eat more at that meal, you’re also more likely to snack later. The reason? Your brain hasn’t logged what you’ve eaten.

Don’t… Eat standing up
‘Sit down at a table to eat your food, even if you’re just having a snack,’ says Andy. ‘If you can’t manage that, sit somewhere else – you can’t eat mindfully if you’re standing or, worse, walking.’

Don’t… Drink too much alcohol before eating
That’s not just because of the calories – booze can also make you less aware of what you’re eating and research has found people eat more calories on days they drink. ‘There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a few drinks, but be aware of how alcohol influences your decisions,’ says Andy.

Don’t… Forget your mindful eating habits when you’re with friends
Research shows you’ll eat more if you’re part of a group. ‘You might not be able to choose what to eat but you can focus on portion sizes,’ says Andy. But don’t stress: ‘Remember, you’re there to enjoy yourself!’