What is Mindful Eating and Why Should I Do it?

Mindful eating is a technique that is often used to help you gain control over your eating habits, while also promoting weight loss, reducing binge eating, and helping you feel better overall. Mindful eating is based on mindfulness, a Buddhist concept and form of meditation that involves being present and in harmony with your emotions and physical surroundings. Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, while also acknowledging and recognizing your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindful eating is about using this method to gain full awareness of your experiences, cravings, and physical cues relating to food.

What does mindful eating involve?

Mindful eating involves many components, including eating slowly without distraction, listening to your hunger cues and eating only until you’re full/satisfied, and distinguishing between true hunger and non-hunger triggers, while engaging your senses through colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors. It also involves learning to cope with guilt and anxiety surrounding food, eating to maintain overall health and well-being, noticing the effects food has on your health and figure, and appreciating your food.

How do I get started?

Take small, actionable steps that will allow you to move towards a more mindful mindset around food. Begin with your shopping list. Think about the health value that each item will add to your life, and make a conscious effort to fill your cart with fresh produce and unprocessed foods. Try not to go into meals overly ravenous, as being too hungry may get in the way of your ability to stay mindful.

Start with small portions when eating (you can always get more!) and take small bites. Try to appreciate your food by pausing throughout meal time to assess your hunger and fullness cues. Bring all your senses to the table and utilize them accordingly. Make sure you are chewing your food thoroughly, and try your best to eat slowly.

Why should I practice mindful eating?

The culture of food and eating in America is all about volume and speed. How much food can we get and how quickly can we get it? We are always so eager to move on to the next thing in our lives that we don’t take the time to actually slow down and be present in whatever we are doing, and this especially applies to food. Distractions like television, computers, and smartphones have shifted our attention away from the actual act of eating, which can impede our ability to stay mindful during meal times. Eating has become mindless, and this can be a problem when you consider that it takes your brain 20 minutes to actually realize that you are full.

By eating mindfully, you restore your attention and slow down, making eating an intentional act as opposed to an automatic one. When you increase your recognition of physical hunger and fullness cues, you are also able to decipher whether you are experiencing emotional hunger or physical hunger – a very helpful mindful eating practice. Mindful eating allows you to increase your awareness of food triggers. By knowing these triggers, you can create a space between them and your response.

Mindful eating has been proven to aid weight loss by changing eating behaviors and reducing stress often associated with eating. It can prevent binge eating by reducing both the frequency of binges and the severity of each binge. It can also help treat common, unhealthy eating behaviors like emotional and external eating. Mindful eating proves to have many benefits, and when done correctly, it can have a very positive impact on the way we eat and the way we view food.