From The Straits Times    |

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I used to regard mindful eating as a fluffy practice simply because I thought there were too many restrictive rules. Eat slower. Always take small bites. Smell your food. And try to eat in a quiet place with no distractions. The rules seemed to take the fun out of eating by making it into a routine.

But after making a conscious decision to focus on my food more as I ate (because I had a nasty phone addiction), I started to realise that mindful eating wasn’t as fluffy as I thought. All those ‘rules’ I disliked started to make sense and I ended up doing a number of them intuitively.

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It turns out I had pegged mindful eating all wrong. It was never about the rules, but simply about being aware of what you’re eating and how your body reacts to it. I did this on and off for a few months, and whenever I did it, I found myself enjoying my meals a lot more. I even shed a couple of kilos because mindful eating made me want to have healthier and smaller portions.

I looked it up, and it turns out the majority of studies conducted in this field agree that mindful eating helps you lose weight as it helps you decrease stress and change your eating behaviours. Mindful eating was a lot more impactful than I imagined it could be. Here’s a closer look at how this habit works in your life, and how you can adopt it into your daily practice.

Losing weight

Mindful eating helps you lose weight because you’re so much more aware of what you’re putting in your body. I noticed that when most of my focus is on my food, I get full a lot faster. When I’m listening to podcasts, watching TV, or having conversations with friends, I end up eating a lot more because I’m too distracted to realise my body is full.

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That doesn’t mean that to lose weight you need to make eating a solo and quiet affair. It just means you need to put a little more effort into being more aware of your food than usual. You could always eat slower, or you could make it a point to look at your food right before you take a bite.

Mindful eating also helps you curb emotional eating episodes and reduce your likeliness to be tempted to eat by external factors, like visual ads or when you happen to smell good food. I experienced this myself: Since I often felt full and nourished after meals, I rarely got hunger pangs and didn’t experience cravings as much as last time.

Being happier

Do you know that feeling when it’s an incredibly bright, scorching day, and all you’re craving is an icy, cold, glass of water with plenty of ice cubes? And do you remember how good it feels when you finally quench your thirst?

That kind of happiness and satisfaction is what you feel when you’re mindfully eating delicious food. The kind of happiness that brings a smile to your face, and for a moment everything else becomes muted. It’s kind of like a Ratatouille moment.

And while you can give yourself more of these experiences by dining at some of the best restaurants in Singapore, you can also find happiness in eating simple, wholesome and clean foods. Even something as simple as grapes might surprise you with bursts of refreshingly cool sweetness.

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So treat yourself to your favourite fruits, drinks, or desserts and take the time to really relish them. And even if you’re not treating yourself, take time to really pay attention to that sip of robust, strong coffee you have at work, that bite of chocolate you have on your break, etc. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Becoming healthier

The more you practice mindful eating, you’ll start to crave more of the good stuff. This is simply because mindfulness heightens your senses to highlight how certain foods make your body feel bad.

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As for me, I love eating fast food, but if I’m mindful, I know that my body feels lousy and sluggish after I finish a full fast food meal. That bad feeling is what spurs me on to get something my body would enjoy both during and after the meal. Similarly, when I eat healthier and my body feels lighter and nourished, I am more encouraged to keep eating well.

It’s not an instant change, though. This was a process that took me months. I started out enjoying my fast-food fries and burgers, shifted to hawker food with fried ingredients in them, and eventually, I started craving greens more, as my taste aligned with what my body wanted. I’m still far from perfect and it’s a process.

Is it worth trying mindful eating?

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Whether or not your intention is to lose weight, mindful eating is a great way to improve a part of your life. It’s an interesting journey to take and it’s possible to start by staying mindful for one meal a day, at the very minimum. Keep trying it for a few weeks and you will feel the difference.