Eating Mindfully

April 13, 2021

Expert guest blog: Caitlyn Freeman, RD, Clinical Dietitian

Mindful eating is an approach to food that focuses on individuals’ sensual awareness of food and their experience of the food.

It has little to do with calories, carbohydrates, fat, or protein. The purpose of mindful eating is not to lose weight, although weight loss is often an outcome for those who adopt this style of eating. Rather, the intention of this lifestyle is to savor the moment and the food being consumed as well as encourage the individual’s full presence for the eating experience.

Diets tend to focus on rules with the intention of measurable outcomes; one either succeeds or fails at the end of said diet. Mindfulness is a process-oriented, rather than an outcome-driven, behavior. This leads to less stress, higher self-esteem, and creating positive food relationships.

Here are six simple guidelines to keep in mind to discern between mindless and more mindful approaches to eating.

Mindless Eating

Mindful eating

Eating past full and ignoring your body’s signals

Listening to your body and stopping when full

Eating when emotions tell us to eat (sad, bored, happy)

Eating when our bodies tell us to eat (stomach growling, low energy)

Eating alone, at random times and places

Eating with others, at set times and places

Eating foods that are emotionally comforting

Eating foods that are nutritionally healthy

Eating and multitasking

When eating, only eating

Considering a meal an end product

Considering where food comes from

  • Slowing down is the best way we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need. It takes about 20 minutes for our brains to receive the satiation signals when we have received enough to eat. Most of us are in such a hurry when we eat we finish our meals in less than 20 minutes! Simple ways to slow down would be sitting down to eat, setting the fork or spoon down between bites, and being mindful to taste the food you are consuming.
  • Too often, we eat when our minds tell us to and not when our bodies tell us to. Mindful eating would be paying attention to your body’s cues for hunger. Is your stomach growling, do you have low energy, or feel lightheaded? Ask yourself: What are your body’s signals, what are your emotional hunger triggers?
  • Eating with others compared to alone can help negate emotional eating. Having a mindful kitchen means organizing and caring for your space so it encourages healthy eating and nourishing gatherings. Consider what you bring into your space. Are healthy foods handy and more convenient?
  • Selecting foods that we know are nourishing (fruits, vegetables, water, etc.) can be mindful selections, instead of restrictions. Taking the time to pause and ask yourself, “Am I hungry enough now to eat an apple?” If yes, then enjoy the apple; if no, ask yourself why you are drawn to eat. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to eat what you are craving (sweets, salty chips, etc.). When you choose to eat mindfully and enjoy the food at hand, you will find you are less inclined to binge eat.
  • Check out this amazing mindful eating exercise. This is a great technique to apply whenever eating.
  • Consider where your food comes from rather than thinking of eating or food as an end product. Consideration of the hands that prepared the meal, of those who stocked the store, of the planting and harvesting, as well as the soil, sun, and water that nourished the plant will create such gratitude and help connect us more to each other and the natural world.

Eating mindfully is a practice that doesn’t focus on whether you do it well or poorly. Instead, focus on learning more about yourself and staying grounded in your reasons to eat and nourish your body. Mindfulness encourages practitioners to live fully in each moment and appreciate their life as it is.