Mindful Eating: What It Is & Why You Should Try It
It’s not just about what you eat, but how you eat it. Mindful eating will help you make peace with food and learn to eat intuitively – by listening to your body.
Nutrition and health are popular topics in the media, with dozens of articles published daily telling you what foods you should (and shouldn’t) eat. Much less attention is paid to discussing how we eat food.
The process of eating, and our attitudes around mealtimes, is just as important as what we put in our mouth. With long work days, busy lives, and food available everywhere we turn, much of the eating we do is done mindlessly. Think about the last time you ate in front of your computer, or while watching TV. How simple was it to eat an entire meal, or a bag of chips, without even realizing it?
Mindful eating is being conscious about what we are eating and why. It is about getting back in touch with the experience of eating and enjoying our food. What it is not: a diet. Eating mindfully does not place “good” or “bad” labels on foods. Instead, the goal is to base our meals and food choices on physical cues like hunger, rather than emotional triggers like stress or unhappiness.
Most of the clients I work with are so out of touch with their feelings of hunger and fullness that they can’t remember the last time they have felt hungry. They often eat not because they are hungry, but because the food is there. Mindlessly munching on bagels during a meeting, even though you already ate breakfast; grazing on snacks after dinner without actually tasting the food; skipping meals without paying attention to your hunger cues.
By breaking the habit of mindless eating, you will reconnect with your physical feelings of hunger and satiety. Becoming more aware of your hunger cues, recognizing your non-hunger eating triggers, and choosing foods for enjoyment can all help resolve the love-hate relationship that many of us have with food.
Ready to ditch the “diet” mentality and start eating with intention? Try these 3 simple ways to introduce mindfulness into your mealtimes.
Honor Your Hunger – and Respect Fullness
The hunger-fullness scale is a helpful tool. Think of hunger on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being “I’m so hungry I’m going to pass out” and 10 as “I’m so full I’m going to be sick.” Before you eat, ask yourself where on the hunger scale you fall and eat when you are around a 3 or 4 (anywhere from “I’m slightly hungry” to “I’m hungry, and it’s time for my next meal”). Check-in with yourself mid-meal, and stop eating when you get to a 6 or 7 (“I’m content and satisfied, feeling comfortably full”).
Take time to enjoy your food, and you’re more likely to notice when you are full, allow for better digestion, and notice flavors you might have otherwise missed. Take a bite, and then put your fork down. Talk with those around you. Chew slowly, and pay attention to the texture of the food, the flavor in your mouth, and the aromas. It can take as long as 20-30 minutes for your brain to catch up with your belly and realize you are full. Slowing down your eating will help you recognize these signals, and makes for a more meaningful meal.
Pay Attention to How Food Affects Your Body
Take time to notice how you feel not just while you are eating, but after you eat. How long do you stay full? How is your energy level? Observe how you feel after eating different types of foods. Maybe you find that one type of snack causes an initial spike of energy, but is followed by a crash an hour later; while another snack gives you more consistent energy throughout the day. Try to approach these observations with curiosity, not judgment. One food is not better than the other, they just may make you feel differently afterward.
By putting the focus on how you are eating – instead of just what you’re eating – you will find yourself enjoying food more.
Want to learn how to eat mindfully? Download my free e-guide Five Minute Mindful Eating Exercise now!
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Alissa Rumsey, RD.
Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS (pronouns she/her/hers) is a registered
dietitian, nutrition therapist, certified intuitive eating counselor, and the author of
Unapologetic Eating: Make Peace With Food and Transform Your Life. Alissa is
passionate about helping people reclaim the space to eat and live,
A twice-a-month round-up of inspirational stories, lessons, practical tips and encouragement for living your most authentic, unapologetic life.