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Mindful eating: What is it?

Mindfulness is one of the trends of the moment. Oprah and her team practice mindful meditation1,  so too does, Hugh Jackman.Meanwhile, Fearne Cotton has created a whole mindfulness range3 and the mindfulness apps, such as HeadSpace and Calm, are reporting record demand.4

It seems people, the world, can’t seem to get enough of mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

According to Mindful, the Foundation for a Mindful Society, it’s: ‘The basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. ‘Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it.5

We can all be mindful in different ways by taking:

  • Part in mindful meditation - à la Oprah and many other celebs and individuals worldwide. (This involves seated, walking, standing and moving meditation).

  • A moment to stop - throughout day (no matter how busy we are)

  • Combining meditation with other activities - such as sport or yoga6

  • Being mindful about what we’re eating - more on this below…

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating involves being mindful when we’re eating. So from a practical, everyday perspective, this means/involves:

  • Being aware of the food and drink you are putting into your mouth and body
  • Thinking about how it makes you feel and the signals it’s sending to your body in relation to how it tastes, if you like/dislike it and how full you feel
  • You can also go one step further by being mindful as you buy, prepare or cook your food too7

What are the benefits of mindful eating?

Mindful eating shares the same overarching benefits as mindfulness overall. It encourages you to focus on the here and now and concentrate on your relationship and experience of the food and drink you’re consuming.

It puts your mind in the present and makes you think more closely about your food and drink. On the whole, this can help you make better, more informed food choices and become more attuned to the type of food and drink that’s best for your body. For instance, does your stomach become bloated when you eat or drink certain things? Do some things take longer to digest than others? What do you truly enjoy eating?

Eating in this way may initially involve you adopting a different mindset and remembering to think about your food differently every time you sit down to eat it, but the benefits are widespread.

5 benefits of mindful eating:

Eating mindfully can help you to:

  1. Slow down – which can provide support with stress and anxiety.

  2. Improve your digestion by eating more slowly – taking the time to chew your food makes it easier to digest

  3. Appreciate your food more – how eat bites tastes; the texture and flavour of it

  4. Think more closely about your relationship with food – e.g. do you eat certain things when certain things happen? Do you eat a lot of one type of food and maybe not enough of another?

  5. Make healthier food choices – because you’re thinking about the relationship between your food, your mind and your body8

How to eat mindfully

Mindful eating is a journey that may seem a bit unusual at first, but over time, becomes second nature to you. Here are some pointers for how to get started with it:

  • Start off being mindful about one meal a day
  • Don’t rush your food
  • Chew everything thoroughly – chewing your food 32 times can help your body’s digestion system and prevent any digestive problems. Thoroughly chewing food can also make you feel fuller sooner9
  • Get rid of any distractions – e.g. move your phone to another room, switch the TV off
  • Eat in silence
  • When you feel full, stop eating
  • Ask yourself if you are hungry and if you are eating healthy food10

Top tips for mindful eating

Embracing mindful eating is a journey. With that in mind, here are some practical pointers for creating more mindful mealtimes:

  • Only eat if you feel truly hungry – are you a 0 (starving) or 10 (stuffed)?
  • The best time to eat is when your hunger levels are around 3 to 4, so you aren’t too hungry
  • Shop with your taste buds, not your eyes
  • If you’re struggling to focus on the sensation of eating, take a breath and bring your mind back to the present
  • Be honest with yourself – are you comfort eating? If so, what can you do to make yourself feel better in the longer-term and not as a quick fix?11
To help you with embracing mindful eating, we’ve written this article, which focuses on ‘What exactly is mindful drinking?’

Last updated: 8 September 2020

DietsFood & DrinkMind & Body