Mindful Eating: Benefits and Practices

Mindful eating is maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink consume, observing rather than judging how the food makes you feel and the signals your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness.

For many of us, our busy lives make mealtimes rushed affairs or we find ourselves eating in the car commuting to work, at the desk in front of a computer screen, or parked on the couch watching TV. We eat mindlessly, shoveling food down regardless of whether we’re still hungry or not.

Eating mindfully can help you to:

– Slow down and take a break from the hustle and bustle of your day, easing stress and anxiety.
– Examine and change your relationship with food—helping you, for example, to notice when you turn to food for reasons other than hunger.
– Derive greater pleasure from the food you eat, as you learn to slow down and more fully appreciate your meals and snacks.
– Make healthier choices about what you eat by focusing on how each type of food makes you feel after eating it.
– Improve your digestion by eating slower.
– Feel fuller sooner and by eating less food.
– Make a greater connection to where your food comes from, how it’s produced, and the journey it’s taken to your plate.
– Eat in a healthier, more balanced way.

How to practice mindful eating

To practice mindful eating, it’s important to eat with all your attention rather than on “automatic pilot” or while you’re reading, looking at your phone, watching TV, daydreaming, or planning what you’re doing later. When your attention strays, gently bring it back to your food and the experience of cooking, serving, and eating.

Below are ways to practice mindful eating;

Start by taking a few deep breaths and considering the health value of each different piece of food. While nutrition experts continually debate exactly which foods are “healthy” and which are not, the best rule of thumb is to eat food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it.

Employ all your senses while you’re shopping, cooking, serving, and eating your food. How do different foods look, smell, and feel as you chop? How do they sound as they’re being cooked? How do they taste as you eat?

Put your utensils down between bites. Take time to consider how you feel—hungry, satiated—before picking up your utensils again. Listen to your stomach, not your plate. Know when you’re full and stop eating.

Take a bite, and notice how it feels in your mouth. How would you describe the texture now? Try to identify all the ingredients, all the different flavors. Chew thoroughly and notice how you chew and what that feels like.

Focus on how your experience shifts moment to moment. Do you feel yourself getting full? Are you satisfied? Take your time, stay present and don’t rush the experience.

Be curious and make observations about yourself, as well as the food you’re about to eat. Notice how you’re sitting, sit with good posture but remain relaxed. Acknowledge your surroundings but learn to tune them out. Focusing on what’s going on around you may distract from your process of eating and take away from the experience.

Tune into your hunger: How hungry are you? You want to come to the table when you’re hungry, but not ravenous after skipping meals. Know what your intentions are in eating this specific meal. Are you eating because you’re actually hungry or is it that you’re bored, need a distraction, or think it’s what you should be doing?

Give gratitude and reflect on where this food came from, the plants or animals involved, and all the people it took to transport the food and bring it onto your plate. Being more mindful about the origins of our food can help us all make wiser and more sustainable choices.

Continue to eat slowly as you talk with your dining companions, paying close attention to your body’s signals of fullness. If eating alone, try to stay present to the experience of consuming the meal.

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