Practice Mindful Eating
Watch this mindful eating video and practice mindful eating while watching the video.
You may have heard about mindful eating, but what does it actually mean? Mindful eating focuses on purposefully paying attention to your eating–that includes hunger and fullness signals, what you’re truly in the mood to eat and what type of food makes sense to have at that moment. The wonderful part about mindful eating is that it focuses on what your body needs. There are no diet rules or stipulations to follow. There is no good or bad food. It is all about being present in the moment with food.
It is important to note that mindful eating should not be used to manipulate or change your weight or body shape. Additionally, it should not be used as an “excuse” to skip nourishing yourself when you need to. Mindful eating is about learning to trust your body and observing how the food makes you feel rather than placing judgement.
There is an increasing amount of evidence that diets do not work and can become emotionally and physically draining. The book “Anti-Diet” by Christy Harrison, MPH, RD goes into great detail about the history of diets and diet culture. She explains in the book that diet rules can make us become less in tune with our body’s signals. This is where mindful eating comes in.
Let’s examine what mindful eating entails and how you can use these steps to implement mindfulness in your life. Remember that each of these steps take practice and may take time to adapt into new behaviors.
Mindful Eating Steps
Listen to your hunger and fullness cues
It is important not to wait until you are overly hungry before you decide to have your next meal. This can lead to feelings of fatigue, loss of concentration and overeating. Eating throughout the day can help improve energy levels, boost focus and reduce feelings of irritability.
It is also possible that your body has stopped sending hunger signals if you have been dieting or struggling with an eating disorder. And that is okay! It is important to help you regain attunement with your hunger cues by focusing on fueling your body every 3-4 hours. Over time, your body will start to send the hunger signal again.
Turn off devices when eating
I know it can be tempting to multitask while eating by finishing up work emails, catching up on a show or scrolling through social media. However, being distracted at meals and snacks can hinder mindful eating. To start, practice limiting distractions for the first 5 minutes of the meal. Continue to practice this until it becomes more of a routine.
Take time to clear your head and appreciate the food
It is important to appreciate the food that is in front of you. Think about where your food came from and how it was prepared. Try to clear your mind, focus on the present moment and thank yourself for taking the time to enjoy your meal.
Engage with all 5 senses
Pay attention to the texture, flavor, aroma and even the sound of your food. You may notice something new about your food that you have never noticed before.
I experienced this first-hand at a nutrition conference about mindful eating. They provided everyone in the audience with a raisin and asked us to pretend like we had never seen a raisin before. We were told to describe what it looked like, felt like and smelled like, before putting it in our mouth. Once we put it in our mouth, we chewed it slowly and described the variety of textures and flavors that we were experiencing. After this practice, I had a better understanding of how mindful eating opens your eyes to the many pleasures food brings. I encourage you to try this with a friend or family member next time you share a meal together. Sit down and describe the flavors and textures of the meal to each other. Is it crunchy, smooth, sweet, savory, sour or mild?
Mindful eating doesn’t require a quiet space at home
You can still practice one or more of these tips when on the go. Maybe you need a snack while driving to work; you can still be mindful of the textures and flavors of your snack. Maybe you need to eat dinner while finishing up a few emails at work; you can still check in with your body half way through the meal to see if you are satisfied or still hungry.
For most of us, being mindful at every meal of the day may be unrealistic. Instead, think of mindful eating as a new activity that requires practice. The more you practice, the easier it will become. Choosing when, where, and how much to eat can become less stressful as you transition away from diet-influenced ways of thinking about eating and focus on listening to your body.
For more resources about mindful eating, please check out some of our other blogs!
Dietitian Liz works with a variety of clients including those with diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, kidney disease and those interested in learning about balanced eating and cooking.