By Jenna DeRosa, LPCC
Mindful eating integrates consciousness and calmness into your daily meal or snack times. It’s about bringing awareness to what you’re putting into your body; appreciating the complexity of your meals and savoring the moment. During meal times individuals are typically distracted. For instance, they’re; watching tv, socializing with one another, browsing through their phone, reading the news, etc.
These are all ways that distract your mind and your body from the process of eating. This encourages you to ignore hunger cues, fullness cues, and to detach your body from the experience of the food that you’re eating. By implementing mindful eating into your mealtimes, you build awareness of your body’s response to eating foods and drinking fluids and to how the ingredients taste. This impacts the thoughts and feelings you have towards the food you’re putting into your body.
What does mindless eating look like?
- Eating on autopilot; watching tv, talking on the phone, looking at social media while on your phone, etc.
- Eating in response to an emotion or to fill a void (sadness, loneliness, guilt)
- Ignoring your body’s fullness cues
- Eating to finish all of the food on your plate because it’s there
- Eating as quickly as possible
What are some benefits of mindful eating?
- Building a healthier relationship with food
- Bringing mindfulness into your day and meal times to relieve stress and anxiety
- Improving digestion
- Learning to pay attention to your body’s cues and your body’s responses
- Gaining an appreciation for the food you’re eating and the process of how it’s created
Who can practice mindful eating?
Anyone! Recognize that it is a process that you can implement NOW
While you may hear that individuals with disordered eating habits practice this, this can be implemented for anyone. Due to the fact that over 50% of individuals have an unhealthy and distorted view towards food due to diet culture, this process can help anyone who is able to recognize that within themselves.
What can I start doing now to implement mindful eating?
Take deep breaths before eating
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
- Allow your body and mind to become present in the moment
- Allow your thoughts to calm.
Engage all of your senses before you start eating and appreciate what you’re seeing in front of you
- What does the food look like, what does it smell like, what is the texture of it?
- Acknowledge your surroundings; are there things that are distracting you? Is the TV on? Are there a lot of people talking in the room?
- Practicing in learning how to tune sounds out that are causing a distraction
- Acknowledge your hunger; where do you feel it? Is your body telling you it’s hungry? Do you have a headache? Are you shaky or antsy or feel tense?
Take a bite of your food and tune into your senses
- What tastes do you notice?
- How does it feel within your mouth?
- Do you notice any changes in your body, thoughts, feelings?
Put your fork down between each bite.
- This allows you to slow down the process of eating and be more intentional
- Listen to your body and not focus on the food on your plate
Acknowledge how your body is responding between each bite
- Do you notice yourself feeling less hungry?
- What feelings and thoughts do you notice as your eating; guilt, pleasure, resistance
- Continue eating slowly
Give gratitude to where the food is coming from
- Take a moment to appreciate the food on your plate, how it was created, who made it, the ingredients that are in it
- Acknowledge the difference in this experience compared to other meals that you’ve eaten
While all of these steps may feel excessive or difficult to fit into every meal, it’s up to you to decide what you can fit into each meal. Start taking some steps now rather than later.
Whether that is just taking deep breaths, putting your fork down between each bite, practicing gratitude towards your meals, or even eating more slowly. There are steps that you can take now to implement mindful eating into every meal and to have a deeper appreciation and awareness of your body, mind, and your food.