What is mindful eating?
First, let’s identify what it is not:
- Inhaling the last two pieces of pizza from the box because no one else wants them.
- Coming home from work and automatically grabbing the potato chips for a five-minute snack session before you start making dinner.
- Taking a donut – or two – brought in by a coworker, even though you already had breakfast.
None of these are criminal acts, mind you. It’s OK, and even healthy, to eat in a way that provides pleasure. Still, many of us are guilty of not regularly making mindful decisions about the food we put into our body.
Mindful eating involves feeling in tune with your body and eating foods that are both satisfying and nourishing to the body, according to The Center for Mindful Eating. It also involves not judging yourself for liking, disliking or feeling neutral about certain foods.
Many people choose to eat even when they’re not hungry – stress and boredom are often given as reasons we turn to food. Being mindful when it comes to eating helps us stay in touch with our innate connection to our own sense of hunger and satiety (that feeling of fullness after we eat).
Southeastern Med offers the following tips to help you feel more in control of your eating habits:
- How hungry are you?: Next time you feel like eating (or are already eating), stop and rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10, with one being starving and 10 being uncomfortably full. Being cognizant of our hunger level can help us decide if we really need something to eat, or if we’re simply filling time or responding to a stressor. The scale can also help us decide when we’ve had enough, preventing us from overeating.
- Wait and see: Pausing 20 minutes before acting on an impulse to eat is a great, simple way to be mindful. Maybe your desire to eat doesn’t go away – that’s OK. The timeout gives you a chance to think about your food options and how you will respond in a way that benefits your mind and body.
- Don’t eat distracted: Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the act of eating. Turn off electronics or take an actual lunch break away from your desk. Avoiding distraction during a meal or snack helps us feel more satisfied with the food.
- You don’t have to clean your plate: This goes back to downing the last two pieces of pizza just because they’re there. It’s OK to eat until you feel satisfied and then put the rest in the fridge to eat another time.
- Control portion size: Use smaller plates and be deliberate about what you put on it. Avoid snacking out of the box or bag.
- Judge not: Did you slip up and not practice mindful eating? We all do, and that’s OK. Don’t shame yourself or feel guilty about it afterward. Think about what happened and why, and take the opportunity to be mindful next time.