In a world full of multi-tasking and distractions, getting in a healthy and fulfilling meal can be a challenge. Sure, we eat but do we truly connect to ourselves to enjoy what we are putting into our mouths? Mindful eating focuses on the why and how of eating versus how much to eat and when to eat like most common diets. Mindful eating is the practice of eating with intention and attention. According to Dr. Michelle May, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, mindful eating is much more than eating slowly, without distraction. It’s also the following:
- Increased awareness of your physical and emotional cues (i.e., stress eating)
- Recognition of your non-hunger triggers for eating
- Learning to meet your other needs in more effective ways than eating
- Choosing food for both enjoyment and nourishment, eating for optimal satisfaction
- Satiety and using the fuel you’ve consumed to live a vibrant life.
Just like everything else in life, mindful eating takes practice. You are changing not only the way you eat but also your beliefs about food. Popular diet culture will have you believe you have to be disciplined and restrictive to achieve results. Some people find short-term success with these kinds of diets to only yo-yo back to a weight that is even higher than before they started the diet. This does nothing for our self-esteem and can increase health risks, including cardiovascular disease, gallstones, and gastrointestinal issues. Not to mention the emotional distress of the constant ups and downs of traditional dieting. Here are some tips to help you get started on your mindful eating journey:
- Develop a non-judgmental approach to what you eat – food is neither “good” nor “bad.” Instead, try to think about which foods you should choose more of and foods that should be chosen less or even occasionally. This will also help you practice that mysterious little thing called “balance and moderation.” All foods can fit into this way of eating but being mindful about your choices will help you identify when you’re eating for nourishment versus just pleasure.
- Perform a mind-body scan prior to eating – pay attention to your body, are you feeling physical cues for hunger? If not, how are you feeling? We tend to mistake boredom, stress, loneliness, and other emotions for cues to eat. Once we become aware of this, we have the power to explore other non-food ways to fulfill those needs.
- Assess your intensity of hunger – we tend to make poorer food choices when we are ravenous. To avoid the hangries, schedule regular mealtimes and snacks so you can make healthy, rational choices and eat at a slower pace.
- Start with a smaller portion. This is especially helpful if you belong to the “Clean Plate Club,” which encourages no waste (even when we are already full). By using a smaller plate, it automatically reduces portion sizes and allows us to check in with ourselves before getting another serving.
Remember, the goal of mindful eating isn’t perfection. Becoming more aware of why and how we eat can take time, but every step counts. Changing behaviors that we’ve had in some cases since childhood can be tricky. Seek out a good support team that can provide accountability, including friends and family.
- This article was submitted by Katrina Castle MS, RD from St. Anthony Hospital.
- 8 Steps to Mindful Eating. (2016).
- What is Mindful Eating? A Detailed Beginner’s Guide. (2022).
- What is Mindful Eating?. (2022).
- How Can Mindful Eating Help Me?. (n.d.)
- What Happens to Your Body When You Yo-Yo Diet. (2022).