Close your eyes and think about the last meal you ate. Were you satisfied with this meal? What were you doing during this meal besides eating? Where were you? And who were you with? – These may not be questions you ask yourself daily when sitting down to have lunch. However- an approach to eating called Mindful Eating utilizes these questions to help you develop a better relationship with food by slowing down, increasing awareness, and suspending judgment. Mindful eating- while not a new approach, is a healthful and widely practiced approach based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness that incorporates meditation techniques and practices. The mindful eating approach is not to be confused with a diet. It is a way of eating that goes beyond weight loss and keeps you present in the moment and reminds you to live with intention.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness as we know it here in the US was developed, researched and used in clinical practice by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn who describes it as “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”. Incorporating mindfulness into eating simply means paying attention to your food, avoiding distractions, savoring each bite, and focusing on the experience rather than the caloric impact. You lose the autonomy of eating, enjoy the process, and appreciate what you are consuming.
Mindless Eating- is eating on autopilot. The food taste so good so you keep eating without taking a break or a breath. When you are done, you are left feeling overfull, and possibly craving something else.
Mindful Eating- is eating with intention. You aware of what you are eating, you pause between bites, assess your fullness, and savor your meal.
The health benefits of mindful eating are what make this eating approach so amazing. Mindful eating has shown to have a positive impact on health in many ways. It has been used to treat chronic conditions such as eating disorders, anxiety, and behaviors such as binge eating. Other health benefits include:
· Improvement in fasting blood glucose levels
· Weight loss
· Stress management
· Healthier relationships
· Optimization of digestion
· Better food choices
Five Steps to Start Eating Mindfully
You may be wondering how to begin mindful eating. The approach can be incorporated into your daily life with 5 easy steps.
Here are 5 steps to Mindful Eating:
1.Assess your hunger- You can start by rating on the following scale:
1 = No noticeable hunger
2 = Starting to think about food, slight hunger
3 = Stomach starting to feel empty, strong urge to eat
4 = Very hungry, irritable, low energy
5 = Extremely hungry, lightheaded
2. Portion your food according to your hungry- Give yourself enough food to satisfy the hunger you feel.
3. Take 3 breathes before you begin eating- Always make time to breathe. Taking deep breathes helps you relax before you begin.
4. Use all 5 senses as you eat- Notice the colors, aroma, and flavor. Pay attention to mouth feel and textures as you chew slowly and thoroughly.
5. Pause hallway through your meal to assess fullness. Put your utensils down and take a brief break. Pausing mid-meal allows you to check in with yourself and assess satiety. Assess how much of the meal you will need to finish to satisfy what remains of your hunger, even if that means leaving food on your plate! Regardless of what your parents told you growing up, there is no club for clean plates.
It’s important to remember that mindful eating isn’t something to add to your checklist. It’s a process of shifting your behavior around food that will ultimately put you are in control. Behavioral changes take time and mindful eating habits most likely won’t happen overnight. But there is no doubt you will not regret taking on this healthful approach to eating.
Mason, A. E., Epel, E. S., Kristeller, J., Moran, P. J., Dallman, M., Lustig, R. H., Acree, M., Bacchetti, P., Laraia, B. A., Hecht, F. M., & Daubenmier, J. (2016). Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindful eating, sweets consumption, and fasting glucose levels in obese adults: data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial. Journal of behavioral medicine, 39(2), 201–213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9692-8
Nelson J. B. (2017). Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes spectrum : a publication of the American Diabetes Association, 30(3), 171–174. https://doi.org/10.2337/ds17-0015