Your complete checklist to a mindful meal | Rosemary Health
Mindful eating can positively impact your relationship with food and help with your weight loss goals. Read on to get a complete checklist to a mindful meal.
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist
If you’ve read our article here, you’d know the benefits of mindful eating. As a recap, mindful eating is bringing all your focus, thoughts and consciousness to the food or meal in front of you. It is paying attention to your body signals, your thoughts, and feelings, and what’s going on around you.
You might be interested in starting to include some mindful eating practises into your daily routine.
Am I hungry?
Over time, we can lose touch with how physical hunger and fullness can feel. As part of learning to be mindful it’s important that we can start to understand our own body’s cue that tell us when we need food, when we are satisfied, and when we are full.
Using the Hunger Scale can help identify how hungry you are and decide whether your desire to eat comes from real hunger or other reasons, such as emotional hunger.
Before we look at the hunger scale though, let’s go back to the basics of how it feels to be hungry. A lot of people have lost the ability to tune into their appetite signals, so it’s important to remind yourself of the sensations associated with hunger.
Start to identify your own personal signs that signify that you are hungry and ready to eat.
Before you eat, check The Hunger Scale
Stomach growling, feeling faint, and low on energy? Or too many bites, feeling bloated, and “Thanksgiving Day full”? The hunger scale can help you know when to stop eating. The scale goes from 1 through 10 (one being the most hungry). Have a look at the scale and pick where you are at. Ideally, you want to start eating when you are at a 3 or 4 and stop around 6. You want to feel some hunger signals but still, have control over what you will eat. You want to stop eating at around 6, so you feel content and not too full. Don't wait until you are at 1 or 2. Being starving, irritable and shaky will almost certainly result in quickly wolfing a lot of food propelling you up to a 9 or 10! So it's important to avoid waiting until you are too hungry before eating.
Print out the hunger scale and stick it on your fridge or at your desk at work. Use it during the day to see where your hunger is. Wait until you are at a 3 or 4 before you eat your next meal.
Your Mindful Meal
Use the checklist below to enjoy your mindful eating experience. Note you don’t have to adhere perfectly to this checklist every time you try mindful eating but it provides a comprehensive starting point.
Before your meal
Have at least 20-30 minutes available to enjoy your meal. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you are full.
You are a 3 or 4 on the Hunger Scale
Consider how you are feeling before your meal. If you are stressed, angry or experiencing an intense emotion, this will probably affect what you eat or how much you eat. If possible, deal with the emotion before eating.
You are seated at a table, and there are no/limited distractions. Put your phone away, turn the TV off.
Take a moment before you start eating to notice the smell, visual appeal, and texture of the food. Pause and be present in the moment.
Focus all your attention on the act of eating.
During your meal
Slowly enjoy each bite of your food. If you usually eat quickly try playing a game in your head that you have to be the last to finish your meal at the table if eating with others.
Put your cutlery down in between each bite of your food to force you to slow down and enjoy the food in your mouth.
Think about how you are using your senses when eating your meal. How does the food taste? Feel in your mouth? Does the texture change as you chew it?
Pause after 10 minutes of eating and consider where you are on the Hunger Scale. Are you satisfied? Have you eaten enough?
Finding it hard to be mindful? Look at all the different elements on the plate or in the bowl and imagine how they got to be in front of you. Who grew those vegetables? Where was the pasta made? How did the plate come to sit on the table? What did the chef think as they spread butter onto your sandwich? This activity will allow you to appreciate your food and remind you of the effort that has gone into providing you nourishment. Use this as a chance to give gratitude in enjoying this meal.
After your meal
Sit for a moment or two and let yourself relax.
Think about where you are on the Hunger Scale. You should be at a 6 (or maybe just into the 7)
If there is still food on your plate, that’s ok. You don’t need to finish it right now. Your leftovers will still be there if you want them later. Put your leftovers away, out of sight and get on with your day.
If you have finished your meal and want more, see how long your meal has been. Wait until the 20 minutes have passed and check in with yourself. Are you still hungry?
If you identify signs of hunger, you may get more food.
If you are not hungry but still want more to eat (maybe it tasted good!) let yourself know you can come back and have more food later. It will still be there. Distract yourself, and allow the feelings of wanting more food to pass.
If you’re looking for a fresh, more mindful approach to weight loss, Rosemary Health can help. We have doctor guided weight loss programs that consider your lifestyle, goals and your approach to food and wellbeing.
Sanchia is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist based on the Gold Coast. Sanchia has more than 10 years of experience working as a dietitian, with much of her experience in diabetes, weight management and behaviour change. She has also worked in private practice and in corporate health, working one-on-one with individuals and delivering group education.