Coronavirus and isolation – how mindful eating may help

By Sarah Noone Coronavirus News   |   20th Apr 2020

Our expert dietitian Sarah Noone on how the practice of mindful eating may be helpful during this period.

During this period when we must all stay at home many of us may be finding that our eating habits have changed. Mindlessly grazing on biscuits with coffee not long after breakfast, munching on snacks after dinner in front of the tv without even tasting them or skipping meals without paying attention to our hunger cues. Does any of this this sound familiar ? If it does you are certainly not alone and a process of “mindful eating” may help.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is being conscious of what we are eating and why. It is about getting back in touch with the experience of eating and enjoying our food. The goal is to base our meals and food choices on physical cues like hunger, rather than emotional cues like stress or unhappiness. So many of us are out of touch with our feelings of hunger and fullness. We often eat not because we are hungry, but because food is there.

By breaking the habit of eating mindlessly, you will reconnect with your physical feelings of hunger and fullness. By becoming more in tune with your hunger cues and acknowledging your non hunger eating triggers you can help to counteract unhealthy eating patterns caused by emotional cues (emotional eating).

Mindful eating is being conscious of what we are eating and why. It is about getting back in touch with the experience of eating and enjoying our food.

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5 simple ways to start introducing mindfulness into your meals:

Take it Slowly

Taking your time and savoring your food will help make sure you enjoy it more and eat less. Eating our food too quickly will prevent our bodies from recognising when we are full. It can take up to 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it is full. So if your swallowing down that lunch in 10 minutes your brain simply hasn’t had time to tell you that you have eaten enough. To help you slow down try and chew your food for longer and take sips of water or put down your cutlery between mouthfuls.

Try to Remove Distractions

Avoiding other distractions such as watching TV or using your phone will help you to concentrate more on your food. Doing two things at once inhibits awareness. Being aware of what and how much you are eating will help you enjoy your food in the moment and recognize when you’ve had enough.

Reflect on your thoughts and feelings

Try to recognise if you are eating because of hunger or for another reason such as an emotional response. We sometimes experience feelings similar to physical hunger, which can take many forms. It may come from boredom, stress, unhappiness or even just seeing or smelling food. In mindful eating, you are encouraged to recognise what drives your eating behaviour. If you find it is often triggered by an emotional cue please seek advice and support from a health professional.

Listen to your body

Listen to your body by eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are comfortably full. Take time to notice how you feel not just while you are eating, but after you eat. How long do you stay full? Observe how you feel after eating different types of foods. Try to approach these observations with curiosity, not judgment.

Top Tip: When you feel hungry throughout the day try to identify if it is actual hunger or thirst because thirst often gets confused with hunger.

Engage your senses

Try noticing the colours, smells, sounds, textures and tastes of the food you eatBy taking the time to appreciate the sensory aspects of the food you are eating, this may help you be more mindful of what you are eating.

The main goal with mindful eating is to identify when we are hungry, how hungry we are and to eat accordingly. It is a great way to become more aware of our eating patterns and emotional triggers and to recognise when we have had enough.

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/heartsupportnetwork/

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

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