How to Rediscover Food Through Mindful Eating
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is the practice of slowing down and paying close attention to your food, as well as your internal cues of hunger, fullness and sensory satisfaction during a meal. This approach to eating allows you to fully experience the pleasures of great food by engaging your sense of sight, smell, touch, sound and – of course – taste. We don’t want to pass judgment or label any feelings or sensations that come up while eating, but simply observe and be curious toward the experience.
Can Mindful Eating Help Me Manage My Weight?
A 2017 systematic review of sixty-eight publications on mindfulness and mindful eating concluded that mindfulness-based approaches can be effective in the management of binge eating, emotional eating and eating in response to external cues. Although there is not enough quality research yet to demonstrate its effect on weight loss, mindful eating may prevent weight gain. Reduced food intake has been seen in some overweight and obese populations adopting this approach, but the effect is less apparent in normal-weight populations.
How Do I Practice Mindful Eating?
It is unrealistic to expect yourself to start practicing mindfulness at each and every meal. A good way to give this exercise a try is to choose one meal or snack this week that you can enjoy in a quiet environment by yourself at a time when you are not rushed. When you are ready to eat, turn off distractions like your TV or phone and take some time to settle into a comfortable seated position with your food in front of you. Ask yourself, “how hungry am I?” and “how do I know?” Rate your hunger on a scale of 1 (full, not hungry at all) to 10 (empty feeling, very hungry).
Look at the food you are about to eat as if you have never tried it before, really noticing the colours, textures and shapes. If you are comfortable eating with your hands, explore the texture of the food with your fingers or, if using utensils, place a bite of food into your mouth and notice the textures while you chew. You may also notice sounds as you eat, but just observe them without trying to change them. Savour the taste of the food by chewing slowly and enjoying any flavours that you notice. Place your food back down between bites to give yourself a few moments to appreciate all these sensations.
Continue to check in with your body while eating this way and assess your hunger cues. Notice how your body communicates with you to let you know when you are hungry or satisfied. Once you feel your sensation of hunger disappear and are satisfied from your meal, rate this sensation again on a scale from 1 to 10 (like you did before eating). You might be surprised by what is on your plate – is there food leftover? Do you still feel hungry and want a second serving? Did you serve yourself a larger or smaller portion than you needed? Simply notice and answer these questions for yourself without bringing up any judgment or feelings of guilt or shame. Use the information you learn about yourself from each mindful eating experience for your next meal and realize that there is no right or wrong way to practice this. It can take time to find your joy and peace with food and let go of any negative feelings you have about eating, so be patient and kind to yourself in this journey.
It can take time to find your joy and peace with food and let go of any negative feelings you have about eating, so be patient and kind to yourself in this journey.
If you would like help taking back control over your eating behaviours and want to learn more about mindfulness, reach out to us through our contact page.
Warren, J. M., Smith, N., & Ashwell, M. (2017). A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: Effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition Research Reviews, 30(02), 272-283. doi:10.1017/s0954422417000154