Mindful eating for better meal experience

Isabelle Sauve
April 22, 2018
By
Projective studies astonishingly anticipate half of human kind will be overweight by the year 2030. Sadly, obesity kills over three million people worldwide annually, which is three times more than famine.

Obviously the nature of what we eat and the quantity we eat is partly responsible; however, it is also correlated to our relationship with food and the manner in which we eat. Indeed, being mindful of what we eat and how we eat is recognized to have a direct impact on food intake.
Distracted or mindless eating can have a negative impact on health and is linked to weight gain. Research shows distracted eaters tend to eat faster, eat more, feel less full, and have a much poorer recollection of what they consumed.

Law enforcement officers know the importance of mindfulness when it comes to daily living; however; its importance when it comes to nutrition tends to be overlooked. Experts suggest adults make more than 200 decisions daily regarding food — most of which are made subconsciously.

It is crucial to pay attention to our food, how we are feeling, and what we are doing while eating.

Distracted or mindless eating includes any form of multitasking like texting or surfing the Internet while consuming food. This manner of eating prevents the brain from properly storing information about having eaten and increases the likelihood of snacking or eating again sooner than when attention is given to food intake.

Attentive eating helps with appetite control and proper management of food intake. Memory and attention, not just hunger, play a vital role in determining how much we eat. A recent clinical study demonstrated those watching television while eating ate 36 per cent more pizza and 71 per cent more macaroni and cheese than their counterparts who were not watching television and were solely focused on eating.

Mindful eating can significantly reduce daily caloric intake and leads to healthier food choices and eating habits. Mindfulness is about living in the moment and enjoying that precise moment.

In today’s busy world, it is important to make time to eat properly. Many law enforcement officers eat “on the go,” in their patrol cars, or while working in front of a computer in order to be more productive. While the demands of law enforcement do not always make it plausible, officers should engage in mindful eating as much as they can.

Deliberately and consciously slowing down the pace at which we eat is one of the best ways to get the mind and body to communicate our true nutritional needs. In fact, the brain requires approximately 20 minutes to signal “fullness.” Therefore, by slowing down, the body can achieve synchronization with the brain.Distracted eating affects cognitive function and also negatively impacts digestion.

Eating according to emotional signals rather than listening to the body’s actual signals for hunger is more likely to occur when the mind and body are disconnected. Emotional signals emitted from stress, loneliness, sadness, frustration, anger — even boredom can be confused with genuine hunger signals such as stomach growling or low energy. It is important to gain awareness of personal triggers for food, especially when not necessarily hungry.

The body carries knowledge and information evidenced by practicing mindfulness. Paying attention to the eating experience permits conscious choices to be made rather than reverting to automatic mode. Being aware of habits opens the doors to behavioural change. Understanding how one’s body communicates hunger is an important step in striking the right nutritional balance.

While operational demands will not always permit officers to fully practice mindful eating or to take a proper meal period, there are a number of tips that may be helpful in establishing a positive relationship with food:

•     Take turns with shift mates to eat undistracted or break and eat together when possible.
•     Leave your phone, computer, television or other electronic device behind.
•     Pack healthy food options, especially for night shifts, to curb mindless eating of salty/sugary food while tired.
•     Find nourishing foods that are also satisfying and comforting.
•     Find a quiet and relaxing location to sit and eat.
•     Use visual reminders — keep the used plates on the table when eating multiple dishes.
•     Use smaller plates, as they appear fuller even if they contain less food than larger ones.
•     Carefully chew the food and eat slower.
•     Pay attention to the smell, flavour, colours, presentation and texture of food.
•     Think of the work that has been involved in getting the food ready to be consumed while you are eating.
•     Try eating with chopsticks or using smaller utensils initially to slow down food consumption.
•     Eat with your non-dominant hand rather than your strong hand.
•     Put utensils down between bites.
•     Prior to eating more food or an extra snack ask yourself if you are indeed hungry.

Mindful eating is easy to implement and studies show that it is an effective method of promoting healthy eating. Having a positive relationship with food and the way you ingest it has a significant impact on overall health and well-being.


Isabelle Sauve is a 10-year OPP veteran currently with the Emergency Response Team (ERT) at the Almaguin Highlands Detachment in Burks Falls, about 300 km north of Toronto. She can be contacted at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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