Mindful eating is a tool that can help us overcome our emotional attachment to food. It teaches us to distinguish between physical hunger and cravings, and it helps us make conscious choices about what and how much we eat.
It also promotes a healthy relationship with food by promoting self-care and enjoyment rather than strict rules and deprivation. It is important to practice mindful eating everyday.
1. Focus on your hunger
The key to mindful eating is listening to your body’s internal cues. If you are hungry, focus on the taste and texture of your food while you eat and savor each bite. You may find that you are satisfied after a few bites or that your craving is fulfilled without the need to overeat.
In addition to listening to hunger cues, try to avoid distractions during meals, such as television, work or reading. This allows you to fully experience each bite and can help you understand how much you are eating.
Eating mindfully can also help you identify emotional triggers that lead to overeating. If you discover that you eat out of boredom, stress or sadness, take note and figure out how to address those feelings in another way than through food. This may involve seeking out other ways to soothe those emotions or using self-care to manage them. Keeping a food journal or mindful eating diary can also be helpful for identifying your triggers.
2. Take a break
If you regularly eat while working, watching TV or talking on the phone, it may be hard to stop. But mindful eating requires a break from those types of distractions so you can focus on the food you’re about to eat.
Take note of the appearance, smell, textures and flavors of your meal or snack. You might notice, for example, that a food is crunchy or moist. You could even try tasting it for each of the five basic tastes: umami (savory), bitter, sweet, salty and sour.
Turning off or silencing your phone is a great way to minimize distractions while you eat. But if you can’t manage to be completely free of them, focus on the fact that it takes a lot of work to produce and bring you your food. Appreciate the efforts involved and you might find yourself feeling more grateful for your food. This could help you eat less and feel more satisfied.
3. Slow down
Taking the time to slow down and focus on your food can help you control your eating habits. This includes eliminating distractions and creating a calm environment at meals, which can be as simple as turning off the TV and placing your phone on silent.
Try focusing on your hunger before and during meals by assessing how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, eat only until you feel moderately full (around a 7 on the scale) to prevent overeating.
As you eat, use all your senses to experience the texture and flavors of each bite. Consider the five basic tastes: umami (savory), bitter, sweet, salty, and sour. Also, take note of the mouthfeel and textures—is it smooth or crunchy, moist or dry? You may be surprised by how many extra flavors you can discover in one mindful bite. Then, count how many chews it takes to eat that bite and compare that number to a normal bite.
4. Eat mindfully
In addition to fostering safety, eating mindfully helps you tune into your hunger and fullness cues, which can help you consume less. Unlike diet culture that promotes unattainable food rules, mindful eating champions self-compassion and eating to satiety.
When you eat mindfully, pause between bites to allow yourself time to fully engage with your food, noticing its appearance, aromas, textures, and flavors. Consider the five basic tastes—umami (savory), bitter, sweet, salty, and sour. Notice if your food is crunchy or creamy, dry or moist.
Like any habit change, it may take weeks, if not months, to get used to this approach to eating. Be patient and kind to yourself along the way. Eventually, this practice can become second-nature. As a result, your health will benefit. Ultimately, it could even lead to weight loss. (10)