Mindfulness is for more than just Lululemon-clad yummy mummies and meditating millennials.
It turns out that the art of simply being more aware at mealtimes could be the key to shedding those extra pounds.
"Mindful eating is simply being more aware of eating; aware of the food, the smell, the taste, chewing, and the way you are feeling," nutritional therapist Amelia Freer told The Independent.
Eating mindfully (i.e. consciously thinking about what you're consuming away from the distraction of TVs and computers) can also promote weight loss, a Portuguese study found
Participants were able to eat whatever they wanted – including calorific foods – but they had to do so mindfully, thinking about nothing but the enjoyment of their meal.
Not only did they eat less than those who ate in front of the TV, but most ended up leaving food on their plates, losing an average of 1.9kg over the 15 week period.
What's more, 75 per cent of them sustained their weight loss up to six months later.
Read on to learn how you can be more mindful at mealtimes.
Chew your food slowly
Chewing increases blood flow to the stomach and can increase the number of calories burnt whilst you’re actually eating, research claims.
People who chew their food more slowly and take smaller bites consumed nearly 100 fewer calories than those who wolfed down their meal. Plus, they were less hungry an hour later, a 2013 study found.
"Remember that chewing is the first step in digestion," Freer points out, "and slowing down the time it takes to eat allows fullness signals to reach the brain (helping to avoid that ‘over-stuffed’ feeling you sometimes can get after rushing a meal too quickly)," the Nourish and Glow: The 10 Day Plan author explained.
Keep a food diary
“Start a journal and note down what you ate, why, how it made you feel and how hungry you were on it on a hunger scale of 1 (ravenous) and 10 (not hungry at all),” advises Pandora Symes holistic nutritionist and founder of Rooted London.
“To understand your relationship with food, you have to connect with it and seeing it on paper allows exactly this,” she told The Independent.
Identify what you’re hungry for
It’s imperative to understand where pangs of hunger come from in order to achieve a good relationship with food, Symes explains.
This way of thinking can be particularly helpful when it comes to mindless snacking, she says.
“The 4pm slump when you reach for the chocolate bar - are you really hungry for this, or do you need some fresh air or a deep breath? You’re nervous ahead of a big meeting - do you really need the snack, or are you feeding your nerves?”
Eat only when you’re hungry
Forget militant mealtimes (breakfast at 8am, lunch at 1pm, dinner at 7pm etc).
Symes advises ignoring the three meals a day plus snacks regime in favour of listening to your body.
“Start to eat in-line with when you’re hungry,” she says. “Use your hunger scale. You had a big lunch and you’re not hungry at 7pm - do you really need dinner or something light?"
Ask yourself where your meal came from
Look at the food in front of you and, without being to sci-fi about it, ask yourself what ingredients are there, where did they come from and how processed is this meal?
"At that moment just before you take the first bite, try to catch yourself for a couple of seconds and be thankful for all the people who had contributed to putting that food in your hands; the farmers, the cooks, and the many, many others who played a role," Freer advises.
Ideally you should be able to identify whole foods on your plate, meat, potatoes, vegetables etc.
If it’s a processed, chemical-laden microwave meal you might want to re-evaluate the state of your life.
Don’t use food as a reward
Emotional eating is a slippery slope that can be avoided with mindful eating.
Yes, you might have had a stressful day at work, but it’s crucial not to use your need for a pick-me-up as an excuse to go spoonfuls deep into that Ben & Jerry’s tub of cookie dough.
Despite what snacking reward culture and irresponsible marketing would have us believe, there is zero correlation between sugar and treats.
Run a hot bath, buy some flowers, book a massage…there are plenty of other ways to treat yo’self that won’t cost you calories.
Give yourself 30 minutes to eat
It doesn’t sound like long, but given that it takes 20 minutes for your body to feel full, finishing a meal in less time than that means you’re probably going to overeat without even realising.
Take your time and not only will you feel fuller sooner, you’ll also consume fewer calories, research proves.
Invest in kitchenware
If you’re going to spend half an hour at the dinner table, you might as well make it an enjoyable experience.
Purchase some ambience-enhancing plates (Anthropologie do lovely ones) and you’ll revel in the pleasure of mindful and aesthetically-pleasing mealtimes.
Drink water before your meal
One of the main things we mistake hunger for is dehydration.
At the first pang, drink a large glass of water and you might find the hunger subsiding. If after 15 minutes you’re still feeling peckish, that’s when you know your body is ready to eat.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies