Mindful Eating: What Is It?

Have you ever eaten something and wondered suddenly where it did all go? This is typically what happens when you eat mindlessly.  You are not really paying any attention to the act of eating or to what you are eating – were you even genuinely hungry in the first place?  Eating can be a pleasurable and enjoyable experience to satisfy our hunger, but we now seem to live in a food abundant and diet obsessed culture which can turn eating into a mindless guilt-inducing act.

Mindful eating is an ancient practice that means to eat with intention and attention.  The intention of feeding and thereby caring for yourself and paying attention to what you are eating, taking the time to consume and actually enjoy the food that you are consuming.

Mindful eating is not a diet, it is about being more aware of your eating habits.  Mindful eating helps us learn to hear what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction.

Mindfulness itself is about deliberately paying attention to what is happening both inside and outside of our bodies, it is being fully aware without criticism or judgement.  Mindful eating is similar in the way that you pay exact attention to your experience of drinking and eating – inside your body as well as outside.  You actually listen for the sounds as you crunch and eat your food, savour the flavours, textures, colours, temperatures and smells.  It’s called listening for the body’s experience, we pay attention to the experience of the body – where does the body tell you it’s hungry or satisfied? Are you completely full? Are you somewhat full? What do these sensations feel like?

Not only is mindful eating about paying attention to your food, it’s also about paying attention to your mind. With mindful eating, avoiding judgement or criticism, you realise when your mind gets distracted from what you are eating or drinking and you recognize this impulse to focus on something other than your food or drink and then you return to just eating.  When you eat mindfully, you start to notice how your emotions can influence your eating and drinking patterns and how eating can also affect your mood.

Old habits are not always easy to change but they can be changed if you really want them to.  Lasting changes take time, and arebuilt on many small changes. Try introducing a few of the following tips into your daily life gradually.

  • When drinking your tea, coffee or drink of your choice pay full attention to the first 5 or 6 sips that you take.
  • Hunger rating get into the habit of evaluating your hungerusing aa scale from 1 to 10, 1 being ravenously hungry and 10 being stuffed full. If it’s more than 5, then you’re probably not hungry but thirsty or bored.  Try having a glass of water and see how you feel 10 minutes later, if you’re not thirsty find something to distract yourself instead of reaching for a snack.  If you are still feeling hungry try eating some fruit or nuts and pay full attention to what you are eating – mindful eating.
  • Be sure you know what foods you really want to eat. Don’t just grab for the nearest thing, make a conscious choice about what you are going to eat. If you want cake, have a piece without the guilt. Small amounts can be satisfying when you don’t see it as forbidden.
  • Don’t forget the last bite – Remember the last bit of food you ate to keep yourself satisfied. This keeps you from eating more food that you don’t really need.

The goal to mindful eating is to make little changes at a time so that lasting ones can take their place. It’s about having a good relationship with food, not judging ourselves or others, simply paying attention to the thoughts and sensations that we experience as we eat.  Mindful eating is natural and it is a good habit to get back into – happy mindful eating.