Mindful Eating, Part 1


When we’re stressed, it’s easy to reach for food to help comfort our emotions. During these times of self-quarantine, we hope our Mindful Eating blog can help bring awareness and tips on how to turn Mindless Eating into Mindful Eating. Here is part 1 of our 2-part series

Mindful eating is about establishing full attention to your experiences, cravings, and physical cues when eating.  It makes you watchful about what you eat, and it aims to transform your relationship with food by focusing on the how and why of eating.  Mindful eating helps you have a better understanding of what foods nourish you and help you stay healthy while also encouraging a deeper appreciation of every mouthful.

Here are six guidelines to help you understand the difference between mindless and mindful eating:

Mindless Eating Versus Mindful Eating

  • Eating past full and ignoring your body’s signals vs. Listening to your body and stopping when full
  • Eating when emotions tell us to eat (ie: sad, bored, lonely) vs. Eating when our body tells us to eat (ie: stomach growling, energy low)
  • Eating alone, at random times and places vs. Eating with others, at set times and places
  • Eating foods that are emotionally comforting vs. Eating foods that are nutritionally healthy
  • Eating and multi-tasking vs. When eating, just eating
  • Considering a meal an end product vs. Considering where food comes from

How to Eat Mindfully

Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.  Here are some techniques and practices to make you more aware and mindful while you eat:

  • Begin with your shopping list: Consider the health value of every item you add to your list, and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping.
  • Come to the table with an appetite, but not when ravenously hungry: If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.
  • Start with a small portion: It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to 9” or less.
  • Appreciate your food: Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table.  Express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.
  • Bring all your senses to the meal: While you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them.  The sight and smell of tempting food gets your mouth salivating.  The secretion of saliva and its digestive enzymes are the first step in digestion.  When you smell food, it also triggers your hunger sensation, which increases your craving for food.
  • Take small bites: It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full.  Put down your utensil between bites.
  • Chew thoroughly: Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food.  You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.  You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.
  • Eat more slowly, and don’t rush your meals: As you chew your food, try identifying all of the ingredients.
  • Eliminate distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone: Your focus should be on your food and the company you are sharing that food with.
  • Eat in silence: If you are eating alone, enjoy the silence.  Stay in the moment with your food.  Don’t let your mind wander.
  • Focus on how the food makes you feel: Do you feel energized or sluggish?  Happy or guilty?  Pay attention to your physical feelings as well as your emotional feelings.
  • Stop eating when you’re full: Through mindful eating, you can tune into your body and become more aware of the sensations that precede the “fullness recognition” in the brain, and better gauge when you are satiated.  It takes your brain 20 minutes before it gets the message that you’re full.  Eating more slowly gives your brain a chance to catch up with your body.  Overeating happens during that 20-minute window.
  • Ask yourself WHY you’re eating: Whether you’re truly hungry, and whether the food you chose is healthy.

Join us next week for the second part of this article…

In these uncertain times, look to OHI as your safe haven.  As we celebrate 43 years of holistic healing, we can teach you how mindful eating can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual goals for optimal health.  Stay safe, and be well.  Above all, embrace positivity!

Mindful Eating is just one of the practices you will learn during a visit to OHI San Diego or OHI Austin.  We can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. For more information, visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org or call us at (800) 588-0809.