Mindful Eating: Techniques and Benefits

Mindful Eating: Techniques and Benefits

You may have heard about mindfulness, which is the practice of being present with your current surroundings, thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Mindful eating applies those general principles to all stages of feeding yourself, including choosing your meals, deciding how much to eat, and genuinely experiencing food with all your senses.

Mindful eating has helped many people escape unhealthy eating patterns. This article will explain everything about mindful eating, including how you can practice it.

What Is Mindful Eating?

According to Harvard Health, mindful eating is “being fully attentive to your food–as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it.” When you practice mindfulness, you focus all your attention on the present moment, including sensations in your body, emotions that come up, and your surroundings, including sights, sounds, and smells.

Mindful eating does the same thing. It involves tuning out distractions to focus on your meal through all stages of preparation. First, you check in with your hunger to determine what and how much to eat and then follow that attentiveness through the entire process. 

How Does Mindful Eating Work?

Mindful eating is the most natural way to nourish yourself because it involves tuning into your body and listening to its cues to determine how to eat. 

Your body is smart. Overthinking and relying too much on logic can cause you to become disconnected from your body’s natural cues. Mindful eating helps you tune back into those cues.

Your body will always try to achieve equilibrium. Therefore, it will crave what it needs. If you’re low on protein, you’ll desire a juicy steak. If you have Vitamin C deficiency, your mouth salivates at the sight of citrus fruits and berries. In the same way, your body knows how fast to eat and when to stop.

Mindful eating allows your mind to tune into those natural cues by turning your attention away from other distractions. You do this literally by putting your phone down and turning off the TV. But you also do it in your head by continually reminding yourself to pay attention to your body and food.

Finally, mindful eating also helps you fully appreciate everything you eat. Eating should be pleasurable, whether indulging in a decadent dessert or tasting earthy greens. It involves all of your senses, and paying attention to them helps you thoroughly enjoy it. 

Who Should Do Mindful Eating?

Just about everyone should practice mindful eating! After all, we come into this world as babies already practicing it. Babies cry when they’re hungry and stop eating when they’re full. Mindful eating can help almost everyone get back in touch with natural signals.

The exception is people whose natural hunger cues or body signals are off for another medical reason. Some medications can alter how your body creates hunger and fullness. Certain diseases or chronic conditions can also cause a person to feel less or more hungry than they actually are.

Always speak with your doctor before initiating any significant changes to your diet or eating regimen. Talk about mindful eating specifically. They may recommend against mindful eating, given your unique medical history. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Mindful Eating?

There are many health benefits of mindful eating, both physical and mental. By tuning into your body’s natural cues, you will eat only when hungry and stop eating when you’re full, preventing binge eating and allowing intense cravings to pass.

These behavior changes can lead to lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and better heart health. It may also lead to weight loss and more stability with your weight, which is better for your overall health.

All of these things can help free you from stress around eating. You can spend less time thinking about food and more time being present in your life. You’ll find healthier ways of coping with stressful emotions and situations, and food will lose its power over you.

How To Practice Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating isn’t difficult; just about anyone can work on it and become good at it. Mindful eating begins long before you actually sit down for a meal. Before you shop, plan meals you enjoy that will nourish your body. When you pick out fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients, choose ones that look appealing to you.

Next, eat when you’re hungry but not starving. Not eating frequently enough can lead to being so hungry that you stuff yourself too quickly. Put your phone away, turn off the TV, and tune out other distractions.

Serve yourself a small portion to start with, permitting yourself to go back for more. Having less on your plate can help you slow down and pay attention to your body’s cues. Before you start eating, allow your other senses to enjoy the meal. Appreciate how it looks (try plating your food artfully), smells, and even sounds if it’s sizzling.

Take small bites when you eat and chew thoroughly. Notice how the food tastes, and see if you can taste each ingredient in the dish. Pay attention to the texture of the food. Eat slowly, pausing in between bites. If you have more than one food on your plate, check in with your body about what you want next.

Spend about five minutes in silent reflection at the beginning of the meal before jumping into a conversation. Try talking about the food and what your family members and friends are experiencing. 

What Are the Facts About Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating isn’t a fad; its benefits are backed up by scientists, doctors, and psychologists. Let’s take a look at some of the facts.

How Effective Is Mindful Eating for Weight Loss?

Mindful eating can be effective for weight loss, but typically only if a person needs to lose weight because they have been overeating. 

With practice, mindful eating can stop you from eating when you’re not hungry. It can prevent overeating, guaranteeing that you eat only when you’re actually hungry and stop when your body is satisfied. 

It also helps you listen to your body’s real cravings, providing yourself with the nutrition you need. This means you can stop giving in to impulsive cravings and truly enjoy your favorite foods when you decide to eat them. 

However, if your body is at a size where it’s happy, mindful eating will not cause weight loss. The good news is that mindful eating is all about getting your body to a place of equilibrium, so if successfully doing mindful eating doesn’t lead to weight loss, you’re probably in good health anyway.

How Does Mindful Eating Affect Binge Eating?

If you struggle with binge eating, then mindful eating can be transformative. As discussed above, Binging implies overeating, and mindful eating is designed to prevent that from happening. Practicing mindful eating can help cut down on the frequency and intensity of binge eating episodes.

Keep in mind that binge eating disorder is a mental health diagnosis with serious physical implications. Mindful eating is often one of the behavioral changes that experts in the field recommend for treating this illness. 

How Does Mindful Eating Affect Unhealthy Eating Behaviors?

Mindful eating can positively affect other unhealthy eating behaviors besides just binging. It can help you avoid external eating cues and overeating due to them. It can also help you stop emotional eating and use food as a source of comfort.

Mindful eating is also helpful for people who undereat or go long periods of time without eating. Sometimes, your busy schedule gets in the way and causes you to miss your body’s natural hunger cues. Then, you’re ravenous and wind up binging or overeating. Mindful eating helps you pay more attention to your body and avoid that scenario, which is much healthier.

Perhaps most of all, binge eating can help free you from yo-yo dieting and obsessive thoughts about food. By nourishing your body in a healthy, mindful way, you may also experience more body acceptance and come to appreciate all that your body does for you.

How Easy Is Mindful Eating To Follow?

Once you get used to it, mindful eating is very easy. Mindful eating will become a habit if you stick to it in the beginning. After a couple of weeks of practice, your mind will automatically attune itself more to your body’s natural cues. 

That being said, the first few days especially can be challenging. You’ll have to find ways of reminding yourself to practice mindful eating throughout your day, especially at mealtimes. It is well worth the effort, though, since this attunement can have a profound impact on your overall health.

What Are the Tips To Follow Mindful Eating?

Use these tips to help you get started with mindful eating.

  1. Educate yourself. You’ve started in the right place, so now watch YouTube tutorials about mindfulness and learn what you can.
  2. Set reminders to yourself. You can put little notes in your kitchen and eating areas and set reminders on your phone. Use the quotes below as helpful reminders.
  3. Set SMART goals around mindful eating. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  4. Start with gratitude. Pause before you start eating to appreciate your meal and express thanks for it.
  5. Put your phone out of sight and reach to remove the temptation of grabbing it during the meal. Do the same with your remotes if you routinely watch TV during meals. 
  6. Put down your utensils in between bites. This practice can help you learn to take a pause, especially in the beginning.
  7. Permit yourself not to clean your plate and to go back for more. Mindful eating only works if you listen to the cues from your body, and that sometimes means eating more or less than you think you need.

What Are the Quotes for Mindful Eating?

Use the following quotes to help inspire you on your journey of practicing mindful eating. 

“When you bow, you should just bow; when you sit, you should just sit; when you eat, you should just eat.” – Shunryu Suzuki

“The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.” – Hippocrates

“The spirit cannot endure the body when overfed, but, if underfed, the body cannot endure the spirit.” – St. Francis de Sales

“Better to eat a dry crust of bread with peace of mind than have a banquet in a house full of trouble.” – Proverbs

Athletic Insight

Athletic Insight Research

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.