Regular deadlines, treats from colleagues, work stress, lack of a quiet environment – these are but a few factors that negatively impact our eating habits at work.
However, with the increasing importance of wellbeing, mindful eating at the workplace has become crucial to employee health.
But what exactly is mindful eating, and what are some of the concrete steps you can take to incorporate it in your daily life?
Mindful Eating: Meaning
Mindful Eating is based on the Buddhist concept of ‘Mindfulness,’ which according to mindful.org, is “…the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
So, in simple words, mindful eating refers to the practice of eating with awareness and attention to one’s experiences while eating.
Now, you may think to yourself, “what does it mean to eat with awareness and attention to one’s experiences?”
- Eating slowly, avoiding every possible distraction
- Engaging multiple senses and paying attention to how the food looks, smells, feels, and tastes
- Eating only when your body sends you hunger cues
- Avoiding overeating
- Recognizing your hunger as well as non-hunger triggers that make you eat
- Recognizing, accepting, and coping with feelings of guilt and anxiety while eating
- Eating to maintain your overall health and wellbeing
- Appreciating the food you eat
The above practices consist of what one might term ‘mindful eating.’
So, when you take a spoonful of pasta from your plate during lunch, you stop staring at your screens, or reading your emails, or thinking about that dreaded appointment at the dentist that’s due next week.
What do you do instead?
You focus on that plate of pasta before you. You indulge in the aroma or note the lack of it. You notice the color and consistency of the white sauce. You take into account the feel of each bite against your tongue. And while you do so, you do not engage with anybody else: it’s just you and that food on the plate. This is mindful eating.
It is seen that eating with mindfulness leads to healthy eating habits, reduces binge eating, and promotes weight loss, helps cope with eating disorders and feelings of anxiety, guilt, and depression.
Practicing Mindful Eating at the Workplace
1. Take time to decide your meals
Take your time when deciding what you want to have during lunch at work.
‘Taking your time’ would mean that you are fully present while choosing what you want to eat. You pay attention to your body’s needs and demands and select a meal that meets those needs.
2. Avoid all distractions
How often have you spent your lunchtime staring at an excel sheet, or making a presentation for the next meeting with your clients, or maybe just surfing through your social media?
Well, to practice mindful eating at work, you need to avoid all such distractions. Step away from all screens. If possible, have your meals outside where you can enjoy some light breeze and sunlight to calm your mind.
In case you like to have company during lunch, you can eat with your colleagues and practice mindful eating with them.
3. Eat slowly
We get it – rushing and hustling have become a part of your everyday life. There is no time to either stop or slow down at all.
It is in this fast-paced routine that mindless eating becomes the norm. You grab whatever you get on the go and gobble it down in a matter of seconds. Such eating habits will do your body and mind no good.
To practice mindful eating at work, you need to take it slow. Eat slowly. Maximize your lunch hour to experience each bite you take genuinely. There is no need to rush.
4. Think positive to feel positive
Encourage positive thoughts within yourself when you are consuming food. Stress, anxiety, and work fatigue pull you down now and then. Try not to pay attention or indulge these negative feelings and experiences when you have food.
Instead, be grateful for the food you have in front of you. Appreciate the nourishment it brings to your life. Engage all of your senses to experience your food – enjoy the texture, the aroma, the colors, and the taste!
5. Pay attention to your triggers
It is essential to have food only when you are hungry.
However, it often happens that we grab a muffin because we are bored, or we finish a box of chocolates in an hour without even realizing it.
It is very easy to fall down the rabbit hole and keep on having food at work just because you can.
Pay attention to your hunger and non-hunger triggers.
Skip that pastry when you are not hungry.
Every workspace has its vibe, culture, and practices when it comes to meals and lunch breaks.
While some workspaces might be too hectic, packed, and chaotic for mindful eating, others might allow you space and time to have your meals in peace.
If your workplace does not allow for or support a mindful eating culture, you might need to create it yourself.
The idea is to slowly and gradually internalize this habit of eating mindfully, with full consciousness and awareness of what we consume.
As a working professional, you will spend most times of the day at your workspace. Thus, it is essential to form habits that will allow you to thrive in it.
Let’s start with mindful eating.