Mindful eating: you may have heard of the concept from a dietitian, health coach, or even someone like a yoga instructor. And you may be thinking "What is it, and why are we talking about it?" Below, we will explore a few common questions and how anyone can incorporate these principles into their way of eating, no matter where they are on their nutrition journey.
What is it?
Sometimes a better way to describe what mindful eating is to say what it isn't. Picture yourself watching a movie with a big tub of popcorn, or behind your computer screen with candy nearby. We're eating away, focused more on screen consumption, and before we know it, we've consumed far more food than intended. Eating mindLESSly means we aren't concentrating on enjoying our food, so the goal of mindFUL eating is to put full attention on every part of enjoying a meal or snack.
Think of how good that first bite of a favorite food is. The sweet creaminess of ice cream, or the warm gooey cheese on pizza. Your eyes close and you smile with how good it is. Mindful eating can make every bite about as satisfying as that first one.
What are the benefits?
The beauty is...anyone can benefit from mindful eating.
- Weight loss: concentrating on every enjoyable part of a food means we are typically satisfied earlier into eating it. If you can slow down and *savor* a piece of chocolate and let it melt in your mouth, you truly can be happy with just one or two pieces.
- Digestion: slowing down significantly improves how well we digest the meal
- Emotional wellbeing: by appreciating every great nuance, we don't take it for granted as much. Mindfulness is also shown to improve stress and other important aspects of overall life satisfaction: it can be likened to meditation with food.
How do I do it?
Mindfully eating means eating something as it is intended, by slowing down and really enjoying it. Think about your favorite meal or snack and consider:
- Flavor: do you like it because it is sweet, salty, spicy, or savory?
- Texture: is it rough like tortilla chips, creamy like yogurt, soft like pasta, or satisfyingly crunchy like an apple?
- Mouthfeel: does it melt in your mouth like goat cheese or slow-cooked meat?
- Temperature: do you enjoy the warmth of a comforting bowl of soup, or the refreshing chill of a popsicle?
Pausing before eating is important too. Consider, and give thanks for, all steps of the process that brought the food to your plate. The sun for growing the vegetables; the farmers for working hard in harvest; the grocery workers that fought through Covid to keep the store stocked; even yourself for working hard to be able to afford the meal in front of you. Maybe also thank yourself or your partner for preparing the bountiful meal.
Make sure you are not eating out of emotion like stress, boredom, anxiety, or sadness/loneliness.
To help yourself slow down, try:
- Putting down your fork between bites (mindless eating is synonymous with "shoveling" food bite after bite)
- Reducing distractions (turning off the TV or putting down your phone)
- Getting into a relaxed state before and during the eating process (take 3 deep breaths)
When we go back to making eating a truly enjoyable activity rather than something to rush through or pacify our emotions, we naturally invite in more mindfulness. Mindful eating can provide significant physical and mental benefits, and is always accessible. If your health is important to you, mindful eating is the next step to a healthier lifestyle!
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– Samantha Marks, RD, LDN
Registered Dietitian | Email Samantha