Watching TV as we eat dinner. Listening to podcasts on the drive to work. Chatting on the phone while we browse the internet. As life continues to get busy, multitasking becomes increasingly prevalent in order to maximise the amount we can achieve in a day.
As a result, for most of us, the concept of mindfulness has turned into an abstract ideal rather than a reality. Though the lack of mindfulness can lead to several repercussions pertaining to our mental and emotional well-being, it can eventually take a toll on our waistline.
The term mindfulness refers to the state of being conscious or aware of something. In that respect, mindful eating involves eating with intention and attention.
Whether that consists of a handful of pretzels or a three-course meal with loved ones, our perception of food is no longer limited to merely our taste buds.
We are able to enjoy it using all five of our senses. We are in tune with our bodies and constantly pay attention to what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction.
Eat when you’re hungry
Our lives are infiltrated with food myths and guidelines such as ‘no red meat’, ‘stop consuming carbs after 7 PM’, or ‘eat every two hours’. What this has led to is that people have lost touch with their body’s hunger and satiety signs.
We live in a generation that thrives on calorie counting and so what and how much we eat are both driven by rules and numbers rather than intuition and self-awareness. We no longer know how to trust our bodies and struggle with being able to distinguish physical hunger and fullness from emotional triggers.
We are born with theses cues but due to conditioning, we lose touch. Babies and toddlers just naturally eat only when they’re hungry, and stop when they’re full but not stuffed.
The real fitness tracker
And though various gadgets such as fitness trackers, food scales and measuring cups help enhance our weight loss, it’s most crucial we relearn our hunger and satiety alerts to set ourselves up for long-term success.
Each one of us already possess the most effective weight loss tool: A Hunger Scale. Ranging from Levels 1 to 10, this ‘tool’ can help us become re-acquainted with our body’s natural cues.
So, we will be able to monitor our portions, differentiate between cravings and real hunger and prevents the risk of overeating.
Its effectiveness merely depends on whether we allow ourselves to tap into our hunger scale and refer to it whenever the urge to eat kicks in. For a better understanding, here are the various levels:
EMPTY- You feel faint or sick because you are so hungry, as if you haven’t eaten for days
STARVING- Your stomach is growling. You are easily irritated, cranky and edgy
HUNGRY- You feel a little low on energy and are slightly uncomfortable
SLIGHTLY HUNGRY- You feel hungry, but signs and symptoms are manageable
NEUTRAL– You can feel hunger is on the horizon but can also wait a bit before eating
ALMOST SATISFIED- You can eat with control
COMFORTABLY FULL AND SATISFIED- Stop eating or don’t start eating yet
TOO FULL- You’ve eaten a few too many bites
UNCOMFORTABLY FULL- You are feeling bloated
OVERLY STUFFED– You can barely move and never want to look at food again
By constantly checking in with your hunger scale, you will be able to gauge when to start and stop eating. Ideally, we should aim to achieve a neutral level of hunger which is at the middle of the scale, between Level 3 and 7.
The goal is to eat when you are at about a 3 on the scale and to stop at a 6 or 7. Our lives are static and as our lifestyles, activity levels and bodily needs change, so will our hunger levels.
Given that our bodies crave balance to maintain a level of homeostasis, paying attention to our hunger scale will allow us to reach and maintain a healthy weight. You will also learn how much food your body needs and can respond to its signals rather than emotional triggers such as stress or boredom.
In some cases, it may take several days or weeks to learn how to listen to your body and what the right amount of food is for you. Weight loss aside, allowing yourself the freedom to choose all foods and knowing how much to eat allows you to essentially develop a better relationship with your food and your body.