What did you eat yesterday? Did you think about your food choices and pay attention to your eating experience, or are you on auto-pilot? The concept of mindful eating has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years. But what exactly does it mean to be a mindful eater?
For starters, mindful eating is about how you eat not what you eat. It requires being completely present during a meal or snack, and paying attention to your internal satiety cues.
Put away or turn off anything that would distract you, such as a cell phone, TV, or magazine. Try to eliminate any judgement associated with eating. There are no “bad” foods, just foods you have less often or in small amounts. And slow down: put your utensils down between bites, and chew your food well.
Mindful eaters ignore expectations, social pressures, and external cues, and eat in a way that is pleasing and nourishing for them.
Many of us eat at warp speed so we can get to the next meeting, fit more work in, or clean up and get the kids to soccer practice. Taking time to enjoy and savour our food is too low on the priority list. It needs to be moved up.
Pay attention to the smell, taste, appearance, and texture of foods to enhance your eating experience. Share your observations with friends and family. Mealtimes are great for bonding.
Mindful eating offers many benefits. Practicing it has been shown to:
- Help diners feel more in control of their eating1
- Reduce disordered eating patterns1,6
- Help with weight management2,3,4
- Improve glycemic control for those living with diabetes2
- Reduce perceived stress5
Mindful Eating Day is January 28, 2016! The Center for Mindful Eating invites you to their online space to learn from mindful eating professionals around the world. Join them to learn more and celebrate the joy of eating. Registration is free.
While mindful eating has clear benefits, it is very challenging to practice. It takes a lot of work and dedication to be completely in tune with your hunger and satiety signals. Many of us are stuck in a mindless eating routine – a tough habit to kick.
Start practicing slowly over time. You don’t have to be mindful about everything you eat. Start with one meal or snack. Get rid of distractions and invite all your senses to the table.
by Melissa Baker, MHSc, RD
- Kristeller, J. L., & Wolever, R. Q. (2010). Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating binge eating disorder: The conceptual foundation. Eating Disorders, 19(1), 49-61.
- Miller, C. K., Kristeller, J. L., Headings, A., Nagaraja, H., & Miser, W. F. (2012). Comparative effectiveness of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: A pilot study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(11), 1835-1842.
- Timmerman, G. M., & Brown, A. (2012). The effect of a mindful restaurant eating intervention on weight management in women. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 44(1), 22-28.
- Tapper, K., Shaw, C., Ilsley, J., Hill, A. J., Bond, F. W., & Moore, L. (2009). Exploratory randomised controlled trial of a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention for women. Appetite, 52(2), 396-404.
- Dalen, J., Smith, B. W., Shelley, B. M., Sloan, A. L., Leahigh, L., & Begay, D. (2010). Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary therapies in medicine,18(6), 260-264.
- Baer, R. A. (Ed.). (2005). Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: Clinician's guide to evidence base and applications. Academic Press.