Jumpstart to Mindful Eating

Smiling Asian woman with bowl of food.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a type of awareness you have during the moment of eating your food. Similar to other forms of mindfulness, you enter a place of non-judgment, and instead appreciate the current moment, from what you are eating and whether you are enjoying it, to details like the taste and temperature of your food.

Is it the Same as Mindfulness?

Mindful eating is a type of mindfulness that uses the same principles. The main difference is that it is a specific task you perform where you are mindful, as opposed to more general mindfulness throughout the day. But as a definition, yes, mindful eating is using mindfulness tools and techniques.

Why Mindful Eating is so Beneficial

You are going to benefit in many different ways by becoming more mindful.

Heal your relationship with food – If you tend to feel guilty or try to control your food, you might not have a great relationship with food. Mindful eating is going to ease these stresses and help you allow all food and understand that it is not something o fear.

Learn to eat slower – Eating slower helps you focus more on your food and how it makes you feel, gives you time to notice when you are feeling full, and helps a lot with your digestion.

Have a better understanding of hunger and fullness – You will also start noticing your own body’s cues when it comes to when you are truly hungry or emotionally hungry, and when your body is full.

Know what food satisfies you and makes you feel good – Beyond neutralizing all food and putting a stop to the food labels, mindful eating also helps you figure out what foods your body does and doesn’t like. For some people, they discover a lactose intolerance they didn’t know they had, others just prefer certain foods at specific times of the day.

What Mindful Eating Isn’t

Mindful eating is not meant to be a way to restrict food, diet, or intentionally lose weight. You are not trying to be mindful in order to eat as little as possible. While you might end up losing weight naturally from mindful eating, when it becomes your intention, it gets in the way of the other benefits of being more mindful when you eat.

Easy Ways to Get Started

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by making the switch to becoming a mindful eater, here are a few things you can start with.

Choose One Meal or Time of the Day to Practice

This is often the first thing people do when they begin mindful eating. Don’t try to be mindful during every meal right off the bat, or you will feel overwhelmed and be more likely to give up on it. It is really hard to change multiple habits all at once. Start small with a meal or snack when you tend to be alone.

This might be your afternoon snack that you eat on the drive home to pick up your kids, or your breakfast if you eat early in the morning. Take that time to shut off distractions and just focus on the experience of eating.

Turn Off All Distractions and Sit Quietly with Your Meal

During that one meal or snack a day, remove all distractions. Turn your phone upside down and on silent, turn the TV off, don’t open your laptop. Let this be a time to just enjoy your food, savor it, and really be delighted in the fact that you got to eat something you truly enjoy eating.

It might be a hard transition at first if you are used to always eating while watching something or listening to a podcast, but you get used to it in time. This is also why we recommend you start with just one meal or snack a day, then gradually doing it more often.

Pay Attention to All Your Senses During Your Meal

Before and during your meal, start activating and focusing on each sense. Again, you might want to start with just one sense at a time, then begin focusing on others when you feel ready for it. Or during each meal, go through each sense, including sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

When you use your senses, you ground yourself and allow yourself to enjoy the moment and not think about much else. Even without distractions, minds tend to wander. It’s ok if that happens, as long as you keep coming back to your food and try to really pay attention to how your body feels and what about the food you are loving. You can also keep a journal nearby to jot down anything you notice during your meal.

Enjoy the Process

When I first started, I entered into it just like a diet; I had all or nothing thinking involving mindful eating–which defeated the whole purpose! But I kept at it, with one meal a day until I could do it two meals a day. I learned to be patient with myself. And although I am not able to stipulate mindful eating at the family meals, the practice helped me savor and enjoy those meals in a different way!

Developing a practice of mindful eating may not easily or quickly. Schedules are jam-packed and it may take a while to find the time to just eat. Keep at it! Try to remove the rules of eating and of mindful eating and take it one meal or snack at a time. Keep steady and before you know it, eating more mindfully will feel natural!

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