What is mindful eating?
Mindful Eating can be described as a way of eating that focuses on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ we eat rather than the ‘what’ we eat. (2) It is defined by paying attention to an eating experience with all our senses (seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, feeling); witnessing, without judgment, the emotional and physical responses that take place before, during and after the experience. (1)
It is often under the umbrella term of mindfulness, which encourages heightened awareness of how we do and pay attention to noticing your senses on the task in hand. For example, Mindful breathing, would be paying attention to our breathing, noticing how we move, feel and the impact of this purposeful breathing has on our bodies.
How will it help me?
You may be asking well what’s the point of it? And how will Mindful Eating improve my diet, health and wellbeing?
The purpose of mindful eating is to move your focus away from the food and other external influences like time, place and other people and to focus and explore the eating experience (1). When you do this you will notice the following things happen:
- You will remember that you have eaten, rather than that feeling of ‘did I have lunch? I can’t remember, so I’ll have a biscuit.’ What I call ‘mindless’ eating. When you are so busy you don’t notice how much or even what you have eaten often resulting in over eating on high calorie snacks e.g. biscuits, chocs,
- You will start to enjoy your food and often this leads to being satisfied much earlier in the meal and hence eating less.
- Engaging your senses to firstly notice and secondly act upon your hunger and full signals means that you less likely to over eat.
- Eating slower because you are focusing on all your senses while eating- how it tastes, what it smells like, the feeling the food gives you, how it feels in your mouth and stomach. Resulting in you eating less.
Mindful eating means you are more likely to eat what and when your body needs fuel and less likely to over eat and put unnecessary weight on. Aiming to keep at a healthy weight for life!
How do you do it?
- Notice your hunger and full signals, don’t ignore them and act on them. Eat when hunger and stop when full. Both are equally important to avoid binging later. (3)
- Move away from screens when eating. Eating while using an electronic pad, phone, TV, means your focus is on the screen and not the food or how your senses are responding to the food. Distractive eating results in over eating.
- Eat slowly, half your normal speed. So if it takes you 5 mins to inhale a meal, see if you can slow it down to 10 mins. Ideal time is 20 mins as it takes approximately this length of time for your brain to fire your full feeling/signal.
- Ensure your meals are balanced containing mainly veg/salad and then protein and carbs ideally for most people in equal amounts. Your body needs all three elements to stay healthy for life.
- Enjoy your food and listen to your bodies signals. And notice the benefits you feel. These will encourage you to continue to eat in this way until it becomes second nature. Resulting in you achieving a healthier relationship with food for life – food freedom and a healthier weight.
‘Respect the fuel (food) and the fuel will respect you.’
- Hammond M. Ways dietitians are incorporating mindfulness ad mindful eating into nutrition counselling. 2007 (cited 2009 2 Jun)
- Satter E Eating competence. 2009 (cited 2009 7 Jul).
- Leahey T. A cognitive-behavioural mindfulness group therapy intervention for the treatment of binge eating in bariatric surgery patients. Cognitive and Behavioral practice. 2008 [cited 2009 4 Nov];15 940:364-45.Abstract available