For most of us humans, eating can be:
And so much more. If your relationship with food isn’t always what you want it to be, you are not alone. Maybe you have a hard time managing your sweet tooth or dine-out portions are getting the best of you. Maybe you find yourself eating a half bag of chips and then wonder “how did this happen?”
Why mindfulness works.
Eating more mindfully works because it helps us reconnect us with our internal hunger cues instead of our usual habit triggers. It also encourages real choices instead of unconscious habits.4
People who have learned to eat more mindfully:
The practice of eating mindfully.
Mindfulness is the practice of noticing what is in the present moment. It is the ability to calmly acknowledge and accept thoughts, feelings, or sensations as they come to you. Research has found that the practice isn’t just good for monks and meditation: It’s a mindset with concrete benefits like less depression, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep habits. 5,6
Now, research also shows that being more mindful about how and why we eat can be a powerful step toward healthy-eating goals.
To experience mindful eating in action, try the “raisin exercise.”1
Check your pantry or fridge for a raisin, a grape, a strawberry, a piece of cheese, or a piece of chocolate. Think about a small, pleasant bite of a reasonably healthy food. Start by holding it in your hand.
A week's worth of mindful eating experiments.1
It may be powerful, but it’s also incredibly simple. You can try it yourself, one day at a time, using these ideas as a springboard. Once you get the hang of it, insert your own ways of letting go of old habits in a mindful way.
Monday: Pause after every bite, and simply stop eating when you no longer feel hungry or when that craving has subsided.
Tuesday: Eat screen-free. For snacks and meals, turn off the TV, handheld device, or laptop. Instead, simply enjoy the experience.
Wednesday: Chew more slowly and focus on flavors, textures, and smells.
Thursday: Eat a fresh vegetable or fruit at every meal (Yes! You can use mindfulness to improve both how and what you eat).
Friday: Take 10 simple “square breaths” before each meal or snack. Sit comfortably. Breathe in as you slowly count to four. Hold for a count of four. Breathe out to a count of four. Hold again for a count of four.
Saturday: Set your meal and snack schedule. Don’t skip meals and snacks, and try to eat only on your intended schedule.
Sunday: Take a mindful walk at a time when you normally find yourself mindlessly snacking. Focus on your legs and feet and what is in front of your eyes. Think a mindful mantra with each step—try ”moving” on the in breath and “thanks” on the out breath.
Let this week be the week you try one small step toward mindful eating every day.
Looking for more ways to build healthier habits and improve your overall well-being? A MOBE Guide can give you one-to-one support. Get started today.
1. Nhat Hanh, T. Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. HarperOne, New York. 2010. P. 41.
2. Stanszus, S. et. al. (2019) Healthy eating and sustainable nutrition through mindfulness? Mixed method results of a controlled intervention study. Appetite. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2019.104325
3. Tapper, K., et. al. 2018. The effects of mindful eating on desire and consumption. Appetite. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2017.11.009. http://www.katytapper.com/publications/Tapper%20and%20Seguias%202020.pdf
4. Today’s Dietitian. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Vol. 15 No. 3 P. 42 Harris, C. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml
5. Howell, A. et. al. Mindfulness predicts sleep-related self-regulation and well-being. Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 419–424. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886909004711.
6. Toneatto, T., & Nguyen, L. (2007). Does Mindfulness Meditation Improve Anxiety and Mood Symptoms? A Review of the Controlled Research. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 52(4), 260–266. https://doi.org/10.1177/070674370705200409