Mindful eating is the process of being present when you eat. That means slowing down, listening to your body, paying attention to the food on your plate, noticing how that food makes you feel (both physically and emotionally), and so on. People who practice mindful eating enjoy a number of benefits, including knowledge of hunger cues, awareness of the emotional relationship to food, insights into foods that fuel, or drain, energy, and making a greater effort to enjoy the process of eating whether at work, home, or out on the town. Additionally, the practice of mindful eating can inspire people to be more mindful in other areas of their lives, which can yield new insights and greater satisfaction overall.
In other words, mindful eating is the opposite of how many of us eat on a regular basis: wolfing down food in the car, frantically grazing through the kitchen on the way out the door, mindlessly noshing in front of the TV, hurriedly eating lunch at our desks, and so on. Mindful eating is not a diet or meal plan. Instead, it’s a style of eating that helps bring balance to our busy lives and provides a healthier approach to daily food consumption.
Mindful Eating Tips
If you want to cash in on the benefits of eating with intention, give these simple mindful eating exercises a try.
- Purchase and prepare food thoughtfully
Mindful eating starts with mindful food purchases and preparation choices. Sit down and create a list of nourishing foods before heading to the grocery store (and then stick to that list!) and prepare meals ahead of time so you can rely on healthy leftovers. Thoughtfully purchasing and preparing your meals will better enable you to approach each meal in a mindful way. If your office has catered meals, request the day or week’s menu to plan out what you will enjoy from the day’s menu offerings.
- Get rid of distractions
When it’s time to eat, try to do only that. Turn off the TV, silence your phone (and leave it off the table), and step away from your computer or any other distraction that may get in the way of enjoying your food. This will create an environment in which it’s easier for you to focus on your food, hunger cues, and emotional state.
- Pause before you dig in
Right before eat, take a moment to reflect on how you feel in your body and mind. Are you famished, or is your body craving a lighter meal? Are you feeling stressed, bored, or relaxed? Are you eating from a place of physical or emotional hunger? Both? Tuning in to your physical and emotional cues before you eat primes you to pay attention to these cues throughout your meal.
Once you check in with your body and mind, take a moment to assess your food. Notice its colors, smells, textures, and presentation. Consider reflecting on and offering gratitude for all the time, energy, and natural resources necessary to bring this meal to your plate.
- Take smaller bites
Eating smaller bits of food, one at a time, requires you to slow down as you eat, which makes it easier to pay attention to your food and be present with the experience of eating it. Challenge yourself to cut your food into small pieces and taste and swallow each bite before reaching for the next one. Or if you eat a food, such as grapes or popcorn, that already consists of small bites, chew just one piece at a time. Whenever possible, aim to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes with every meal.
- Savor what you eat
As you chew and swallow your food, pay attention to its aromas, flavors, textures, and so on. Consciously notice whether foods are smooth or crunchy, moist or dry, salty or sweet, bitter or savory. Appreciating your food with all five of your senses is one of the best ways to stay present during a meal.
Mindful eating may feel easy on some days. But other days, any hope of eating mindfully may go out the window as your schedule gets increasingly chaotic. That’s okay. Mindful eating is a practice. You don’t have to be perfect; you just need to keep showing up whenever and wherever you can. The more frequently you practice the preceding mindful eating exercises, the more likely you are to develop a habit of being mindful with every meal.