What is Mindful Eating?
The term “mindless eating” refers to eating while distracted, such as while watching television or using a smart phone. When distracted, it is easy to continue to eat past the point of fullness, to eat an entire meal without really tasting the food, or to eat without noticing if you actually enjoy what you are eating.
In contrast, according to the Center for Mindful Eating (TCME), mindful eating involves paying attention to eating, experiencing food with all of your senses, using hunger and fullness to guide eating, and choosing food that feels nourishing and satisfying. Truly experiencing your food and connecting with your senses can help promote balance and encourage eating for nourishment, rather than out of habit or according to rules about what to eat.
The Principles of Mindful Eating
- Enjoy the process of preparing food and recognize the nourishment food provides.
- Choose food for nourishment and satisfaction. Notice the smell, texture, appearance, sound, and taste of your food while eating.
- Listen to your hunger and fullness signals to help you decide how much to eat.
- Notice your feelings and thoughts around food without being critical.
Setting Up a Mindful Eating Practice
- Start small. Choose one food or meal to eat mindfully, without distraction such as the television, music, or internet.
- Choose a simple food to begin with such as grapes, carrots, or a small piece of chocolate.
- Use all of your senses to observe the food before eating it – appearance (size, color, shape), smell, feel (texture).
- Take one bite and notice the flavor and texture. Does it taste sweet, salty, or tart?
- Notice any thoughts that arise such as “I would rather be eating chocolate instead of a grape,” or “I’m ready for the next bite.” Chew the bite completely before reaching for the next one.
- Take the next bite and continue to eat slowly and taste the food. Notice how many bites it takes to feel satisfied.
While it may not be realistic to eat without distractions at every meal, going through the process can help you tune into the eating experience, increase satisfaction with eating, and help you tune into hunger and fullness to guide eating.