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Mindful Eating

In our last two blog posts, we focused on identifying, understanding, and improving our relationship with food. In this article we want to focus specifically on mindful eating, which is one strategy for fostering a healthy relationship with food.

Mindful eating stems from the broader philosophy of mindfulness, an intentional focus on one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment. Mindfulness targets becoming more aware of, rather than reacting to, one’s situation and choices. Eating mindfully means that you are using all of your physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices you make. This helps to increase gratitude for food, which can improve the overall eating experience. Mindful eating encourages one to make choices that will be satisfying and nourishing to the body. As we become more aware of our eating habits, we may take steps towards behavior changes that will benefit ourselves and our environment. Without awareness, it is very hard to enact meaningful change.

Understanding Mindless Eating

The opposite of mindful eating, sometimes referred to as mindless or distracted eating, is associated with anxiety, overeating, and weight gain. Examples of mindless eating are eating while driving, while working, while watching TV, or while on your phone. Although socializing with friends and family during a meal can enhance an eating experience, talking on the phone or taking a work call while eating can detract from it. In these scenarios, one is not fully focused on and enjoying the meal experience.

What Does It Look Like? Mindful Eating:

  • considers the wider spectrum of the meal: where the food came from, how it was prepared, and who prepared it

  • notices internal and external cues that affect how much we eat

  • notices how the food looks, tastes, smells, and feels in our bodies as we eat

  • acknowledges how the body feels after eating the meal

  • expresses gratitude for the meal

  • may use deep breathing or meditation before or after the meal

  • reflects on how our food choices affect our local and global environment

Seven Practices of Mindful Eating

From SAVOR: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

  1. Honor the food. Acknowledge where the food was grown and who prepared the meal. Eat without distractions to help deepen the eating experience.

  2. Engage all senses. Notice the sounds, colors, smells, tastes, and textures of the food and how you feel when eating. Pause periodically to engage these senses.

  3. Serve in modest portions. This can help avoid overeating and food waste. Use a dinner plate no larger than 9 inches across and fill it only once.

  4. Savor small bites, and chew thoroughly. These practices can help slow down the meal and fully experience the food’s flavors.

  5. Eat slowly to avoid overeating. If you eat slowly, you are more likely to recognize when you are feeling satisfied, or when you are about 80% full, and can stop eating.

  6. Don’t skip meals. Going too long without eating increases the risk of strong hunger, which may lead to the quickest and easiest food choice, not always a healthful one. Setting meals at around the same time each day, as well as planning for enough time to enjoy a meal or snack reduces these risks.

  7. Eat a plant-based diet, for your health and for the planet. Consider the long-term effects of eating certain foods. Processed meat and saturated fat are associated with an increased risk of some cancers and heart disease. Production of animal-based foods like meat and dairy takes a heavier toll on our environment than plant-based foods.

In Summary

Mindful eating is an approach to eating that can complement any eating pattern. Research has shown that mindful eating can lead to greater psychological well-being, increased pleasure when eating, and body satisfaction. Combining behavioral strategies such as mindfulness training with nutrition knowledge can lead to healthful food choices that reduce the risk of chronic diseases, promote more enjoyable meal experiences, and support a healthy body image.

Follow us to learn more about ways to improve your relationship with food and maintain your health and wellness goals through this holiday season!

- Your Friends at TWWD Fitness

That's What We Do!

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