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So many of us are over-stimulated from the outside world instead of focusing on what is happening now, or at present. Our busy daily lives often make mealtimes a rushed affair. We find ourselves eating in the car, commuting to work at the desk in front of a computer screen, or parked on the couch watching TV. We eat mindlessly, shoveling food down regardless of whether we are still hungry or not. We often eat for reasons other than hunger—to satisfy emotional needs, relieve stress, or cope with unpleasant emotions such as sadness, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom. Mindful eating is the opposite of this kind of unhealthy “mindless” eating.

Definition of Mindfulness?

The practice of mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now”. Mindfulness, in theory, is extremely straightforward. Simply put, it is the practice of being fully present, fully aware, and fully able to engage with one’s current situation or environment. A straightforward way to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life is too Slow. Things. Down. An example is to slow down eating your meals and take the time to taste the food.

Man eating looking at computer girl eating and talking

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink you put into your body. It involves observing how the food makes you feel and the signals your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness. It is an approach to food that focuses on an individuals’  awareness of the food and their experience of the food.

It is not about being perfect, always eating the right things, or never allowing yourself to eat on-the-go again. And it is not about establishing strict rules for how many calories you can eat or which foods you must include or avoid in your diet. Instead, it is about focusing all your senses and being present as you shop for, cook, serve, and eat your food. US National Library of Medicine, The Art of Presence While You Eat  2017.

Benefits of Mindful Eating

Paying attention to the present eating experience can help you improve your diet, manage food cravings, and even lose weight. Here is how to start eating mindfully.

By paying close attention to how you feel, the texture and tastes of each mouthful, your body’s hunger, and fullness signals, how different foods affect your energy and mood—you can learn to savor both your food and the experience of eating. Being mindful of the food you eat can promote better digestion, keep you full of less food, and influence wiser choices about what you eat in the future. It can also help you free yourself from unhealthy habits around food and eating.

Mindful Eating Can Help

• Slow down and take a break from the hustle and bustle of your day, easing stress and anxiety.
• Examine and change your relationship with food, for example, helping you to notice when you turn to food for reasons other than hunger.
• Derive greater pleasure from the food you eat as you learn to slow down and more fully appreciate your meals.
• Make healthier choices about what you eat by focusing on how each type of food makes you feel after eating.
• Improve your digestion by eating slower.
• Feel fuller sooner and by eating less food.
• Make a greater connection to where your food comes from, produced, and the journey it’s taken to your plate.
• Eat in a healthier, more balanced way.

two people eating together
Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

When your attention strays, gently bring it back to your food and the experience of cooking, serving, and eating. Try practicing mindful eating for short, five-minute periods at first and gradually build up from there.

1. Start by taking a few deep breaths and considering the health value of each different piece of food. The best rule of thumb is to eat as close as possible to the way nature made it.
2. Employ all your senses while you are shopping, cooking, serving, and eating your food. How do different foods look, smell, and feel as you chop, cook and taste?
3. Acknowledge your surroundings but learn to tune them out. Focusing on what is going on around you can distract you from eating and take away from the mindfulness experience.
4. With food in front of you, take a moment to appreciate it—and any people you share the meal with—before eating. Pay attention to the textures, shapes, colors, and smells of the food.
5. Put your utensils down between bites. Take time to consider how you feel—hungry, satiated—before picking up your utensils again.
6. Give gratitude and reflect on where this food came from, the plants or animals involved, and all the people it took to transport the food and bring it onto your plate. Being more mindful about our food’s origins can help us all make wiser and more sustainable choices.
7. Continue to slowly eat as you talk with your dining companions, paying close attention to your body’s signals of fullness. If eating alone, try to stay focused.

But even when you cannot adhere to a strict mindful eating practice, you can still avoid eating mindlessly and ignoring your body’s signals. Similarly, are you eating nutritionally healthy food, or are you eating emotionally comforting food? Even if you must eat at your desk, take time, and focus your attention on your food rather than multitasking.

Think of mindful eating like exercise: every little bit counts. The more you can do to slow down, focus solely on the process of eating and listen to your body, the greater satisfaction you’ll experience from your food, and the greater control you’ll have over your diet and nutrition habits.

Help Guide Website, Mindful Eating, Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Lawrence Robinson, and Melissa Cruz

Mindful, Healthy Mind, Healthy Life, 6 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating 2019