Making mindful eating a part of your journey

mindful eating

This post was written by Amanda Langan, RDN, Parkview Health.

Have you ever grabbed a granola bar on the way to work and eaten it in the car? Have you ever eaten lunch at your desk or during a meeting? Have you ever sat down to dinner in front of the television and had no recollection of how fast or how much you ate? All these activities take away from the opportunity to be “mindful” during snack and mealtimes. If you’re distracted by work, your phone or even the TV, it can be easy to rush through a meal without considering the tastes, textures, quantity or even the emotional connection of how food makes you feel. Ignoring these aspects can lead to overeating or a sense of dissatisfaction after a meal.

Being more mindful or practicing mindful eating is a great way to slow down and focus on your food. Mindful eating is exactly what it sounds like, being “mindful” of what you are “eating”. However, this may be easier said than done when you sit down to try and practice it. Sitting down with the intent to eat a meal, without distractions, maybe half the battle when you consider the fast-paced lives most of us lead. To help focus your energy while starting a mindful eating practice, try implementing a few of these strategies to start your journey:

  • Start at the grocery store. Consider the nutritional value of the foods you put in your shopping cart.
  • Being aware of your appetite and how you feel when you start a meal.
  • Before you start eating take a moment to consider all the preparation and time that went into the dish. Consider how the food was grown or raised, how it got to the grocery store and how it was prepped or cooked.
  • Focusing on portion and bite sizes, chewing thoroughly and slowing down to enjoy the meal.
  • Use all your senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and sound.

Although the practice of mindful eating is not intended for weight loss, the practice may help achieve a healthier lifestyle that results in losing weight. Mindful eating encompasses a lifestyle that works to increase awareness of food.

Intuitive eating is occasionally used interchangeably with mindful eating, but they do differ in their goals. While they both avoid focusing on "diet" in the modern sense of the word, intuitive eating drives the individual to focus on hunger and hunger cues. This is done by using a scale from 1 to 10. 1 is starving, 10 is stuffed and 5 and 6 are comfortably in the middle. Check out this short video to see more details about the intuitive eating scale.

Intuitive eating has 10 principles to help guide a healthier way of thinking about food:  

  • Stop thinking “diets” are the answer.
  • Learn the signs of hunger and how to appropriately satisfy it.
  • You need food to survive. Allow yourself to enjoy all types of food.
  • Don’t think about foods as good or bad.
  • Understand what satisfied means for you.
  • Stop during the meal and reassess your hunger cues.
  • Check your emotions before you try to satisfy them with food.
  • Respect your body.
  • Focus more on moving and less on how many calories you are burning.
  • Make your health a priority.

No matter how you choose to incorporate mindful or intuitive eating, remember it’s not about a “diet”. You won’t pass or fail and once you get rid of the pass/fail mentality it may help you develop a better, healthier relationship with food.

Helpful resources:

8 steps to mindful eating

The Principles of Mindful Eating

10 principles of intuitive eating

“Tune in” with Intuitive Eating

Mindful and intuitive eating: The perfect pair

Eating mindfully

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