Are you curious about what mindful eating is and if it can help you to feel more peaceful and in control around your meals? It just might help!
In this blog post, I’ll walk you through exactly what mindful eating is, and how it is one part of Intuitive Eating, and I’ve even whipped up a handy-dandy mindful eating PDF for you to download.
As an Intuitive Eating dietitian, I’ll confirm that mindful eating is a super useful skill, I just wouldn’t stop there! There is a lot to be learned (and freedom gained) from learning to be an intuitive eater, including the principles of being more mindful.
First stop: what is mindful eating?
What is mindful eating?
It is a common misconception that mindful eating and intuitive eating are the same things – they’re actually different!
Mindful eating is one part of Intuitive Eating, but Intuitive Eating has a lot more to it.
P.S. Bookmark this blog post for later for a full 101 on exactly what Intuitive Eating is: Intuitive Eating for Beginners: Start Here.
Mindful eating is about being present while you’re eating. The more we are distracted by things in our environment (lookin’ at you, Instagram), our work (ahem, desk lunches, anyone?) or our thoughts (judgment and food rules galore) the less we are able to connect with the experience of eating.
That makes it harder to find the right amounts of food, enjoy the experience, and find satisfaction.
More on that in a moment, but first, let’s bust one common mindful eating myth.
What Mindful Eating is NOT
Just like a lotta folks think that Intuitive Eating and mindful eating are the same, there is another common misconception: Mindful eating is all about sitting silently and being laser-focused on each and every bite that you eat.
Yes, eating without distractions can help you eat mindfully but it’s not the only way. This may surprise you, but you can still practice some mindful eating as you gulp down spaghetti leftovers over the kitchen sink (or eat with your hands inside the fridge… guilty…). I’ll explain everything – so keep on reading.
But first: why do I recommend incorporating mindful eating into your daily routine? There are many benefits!
The benefits of mindful eating
What are the benefits of mindful eating? Many! Mindful eating:
- Helps you listen to your hunger + fullness cues
- Helps you find more enjoyment + satisfaction with your eating
- Helps combat emotional eating
- Can help you make more health-promoting choices so you feel better and also honor your health (The lingo for this in Intuitive Eating is “gentle nutrition”).
Basically, mindful eating is the opposite of restrictive dieting.
Instead of an app or an equation telling you what to eat and how much, mindful eating uses real-time data from your brain and body to guide your food choices. It is about approaching meals with flexibility and curiosity instead of rigid rules and judgment.
So now that we know the why, let’s explore the how.
How to eat mindfully
Eating mindfully actually begins before your meal or snack continues throughout the time you’re eating and finishes after the meal. I’ll explain all three phases right here.
But a quick note before I dive in: things feel more difficult and even awkward when you’re a beginner. That is totally normal!
Taking the time to learn these new skills offers many benefits (remember that section we just went through?) and gets far easier with practice…just like riding a bike began with training wheels and took time and practice to find your rhythm. But these days, you’re cruising along without much effort – and hey, it’s fun!
Mindful eating begins, well, before you start eating.
Before the meal or snack
Eating is not just about nourishing your physical body, nor is it about meeting a calorie or points goal anymore (hooray for food freedom).
And so, eating mindfully is an opportunity to build trust with your body and learn to meet her needs. All of ‘em. That includes your body’s needs and wants.
Before you begin a meal, check in with what you need AND want. Assess your hunger, cravings, emotions, and thoughts. What’s going on,what sounds good, and what will feel good to your body?
(hot tip: don’t forget that listening to your body includes listening to your noggin, too).
Mindful eating is neutral. This means we are asking these questions without judgment about what might come up.
Set yourself up for success by minimizing distractions when possible, especially if you’re a beginner at listening to your hunger and fullness cues. Sometimes, that isn’t possible, and that’s okay! Do what you can. If you can gain back one sense, that’s great. For example, listening to a podcast involves just your ears and gives you more bandwidth to tune into your meal than watching YouTube, which involves two senses.
And if you are a caregiver and responsible for little humans, consider having an activity ready for them. (Or have them do the mindful eating activities with ya!)
And now: let’s eat!
Let the meal begin! Now as I mentioned earlier, it is a common misconception that mindful eating is all about laser-focusing on each and every bite. Not true! I like to think of mindful eating as a conversation that you’re having with your body.
As you eat your first bite, check in – how does it taste?
What is the texture like?
Channel your inner food writer and pretend that you are describing this meal to someone else.
Take pauses and notice if you’re eating quickly, rushing through. If you’re ever not sure if you “should” eat more – just take a break! You don’t need to make a decision right away. Take your time. And remember; we are aiming to explore these things with curiosity, not judgment.
Halfway through your meal, check in again with what we tuned into before we started eating.
How are your hunger and fullness levels feeling?
Are your cravings feeling more satisfied?
How are your emotions?
How have these things changed since you started eating?
This is a reminder that you are tuning into what your body wants and needs; you’re listening to your brain and body. Use the mindful eating flashcards included in the PDF to make it easier and just pick ONE thing to focus on!
And remember; you don’t need to go through this whole process verbatim each and every time you eat. We don’t have the time for that. Becoming more mindful is NOT about perfectionism, it is about building this awareness over time. If all you do is ask yourself “how does this taste?” you’ll eat WAY more mindfully!
All done? Here is how to wrap up your mindful eating meal.
After you’re done
After the meal, there is a bit more to do to cultivate mindfulness. Once again, it is time to get curious.
Assess how you’re feeling now.
Are you feeling full? Too full?
Did you enjoy the meal?
What felt good..and what didn’t?
What would you change next time (if anything)?
If something didn’t feel good – such as eating way past fullness – don’t beat yourself up. Everything is a chance to learn (even if the lesson wasn’t all that fun).
That’s a wrap
Eating mindfully takes practice using the right tools. Download your free Mindful Eating PDF to get started today!
Free Mindful Eating PDF!
A step-by-step guide to feeling more peaceful & in control around food!
Being more mindful offers you many benefits and is one important component of being an Intuitive Eater. In fact, eating mindfully is a huge part of what I teach my clients in The SociEATy. It’s just not all of what I teach…not by a long shot!