Food rules - No carbs at night. Don't eat sugar. Eat fats. Don't eat fats. Chocolate is bad for you. Imagine if you could ignore every food rule and form a healthy and enjoyable relationship with food using just one strategy. Would you try it?

Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is a strategy and a life skill that will help you form a healthy relationship with food, allowing you to be flexible and relaxed with what you eat. Mindful eating is all about how you eat. It's about focusing your attention on your food; being mindful of what you are eating and how you are feeling, considering your body's physical cues like hunger and satiety.

Have you ever found yourself mindlessly devouring a box of chocolates or a tub of ice-cream? Or have you ever finished a meal feeling so full that you might be sick? This is mindless eating; the opposite of mindful eating. Practicing mindful eating can stop mindless eating from occurring and help you control binge eating and overeating, allowing for healthy weight loss and enjoy getting full enjoyment from food.  

Why mindful eating is the secret to successful weight loss

Here are some easy ways you can start to practice mindful eating and enjoy a healthy relationship with food:

1. Stop and think

Ask yourself if you are physically hungry? Do you have that grumbly, empty feeling in your stomach? Or are you simply eating to entertain your mind? Take a moment to pause and reflect what you're doing and give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.

2. Consider your eating environment

Why mindful eating is the secret to successful weight loss

Switch off all distractions including your phone, TV, laptop and anything work related like emails and phone calls when you eat. Sit at your eating table or outside in a relaxed, distraction-free environment. Try to avoid eating at your work desk, on the run or while driving so you can give yourself the time to eat and enjoy your food.

3. Pay attention to your food

Start by looking at your food and seeing the different colours, textures, sizes of what you're about to eat. Smell your food; is it sweet, spicy? What does your food taste like? Is it salty, sweet, tangy, bitter? Move your food around to different parts of your mouth and tongue and see if you can taste different flavours. What is the texture like? Is your food crunchy, soft, chewy, crispy?  Paying attention to all these amazing details of your food will help you eat mindfully and appreciate and enjoy your meal. 

4. Take time to eat your meal

Why mindful eating is the secret to successful weight loss

How long does it take you to eat a meal? Are you a fast or a slow eater? Do you inhale your food in a few minutes, forgetting to even chew it? If this is you, then its time to slow things down. To practice mindful eating, aim to take at least 20-30 minutes to eat your meals. Chew your food well; to begin with you can aim for 10 chews per mouthful. Put your cutlery down between each mouthful and wait until you have finished eat bite before you go for you next one. Slowing your eating will not only help with mindful eating but will also promote healthy digestion & weight loss.

Next time you're about to eat a meal, consider each of these four steps and try to practice mindful eating.

Rebecca Gawthorne is an accredited practicing dietitian, accredited nutritionist and a member of the dietitians association of Australia. She is the founder of Nourish Naturally and the expert nutritionist for SumoSalad, both of which share the vision of creating a healthier Australia, and a healthier world.

Why mindful eating is the secret to successful weight loss