”Question: How do I change the way I think about food and make better choices?
Reading time: 5 Minutes
- Learn about the positive impact mindful eating can have on your nutrition and overall wellness.
- Mindful eating helps you slow down your eating and promote healthy eating behaviors through building awareness of thoughts and feelings during the present moment.
- Here are a few benefits of mindful eating:
- Increased awareness of hunger and fullness
- Stress reduction
- Increased satisfaction with food
- Healthier food decisions
Multitasking while eating has become the new normal. Watching TV, scrolling through social media, or working at your desk are all common ways to pass the time during a meal. But this often leads to less satisfaction with meals, less awareness of your food, and often, overeating.
Mindful eating is a technique to help you slow down, increase your awareness of your food, and promote healthy eating behaviors, while building a healthy relationship with food. This article covers what mindful eating is, its benefits, and how you can start practicing today.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a type of mindfulness exercise. A mindfulness practice is a form of meditation to help you increase awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in the present moment. Research shows a mindfulness meditation practice may help improve depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions (Behan, 2020).
The purpose of mindful eating is to slow down during mealtime to pay full attention to your food. You can use mindful eating to gain control over eating habits and reduce mindless snacking by replacing automatic actions with more conscious choices.
Mindful eating is a technique commonly used by intuitive eating dietitians and others to help people learn their hunger and fullness cues.
Benefits of mindful eating
Here are 7 benefits of practicing mindful eating:
1. Increased awareness of hunger and fullness
When you eat without distractions by following the mindful eating steps, you learn how your hunger and fullness cues feel. It can take time for the stomach to register that you’re full, so slowing down allows time for your body to tell you when you’ve had enough.
Instead of hurrying through all of the food on your plate, you will start to learn how much of that food you really want to eat vs. emotional eating or just eating what’s on your plate because it’s there.
Hunger may feel like increased irritability, fatigue, and a grumbling stomach. Fullness cues may feel like less enjoyment of the food, a comfortably full stomach with some pressure in the area, and loss of hunger.
2. Weight loss
Mindful eating helps you stop eating when full, intentionally change your food choices, and decrease mindless eating. Since mindful eating helps reduce overeating, this may result in weight loss and help regulate body weight (Mantzios, 2015).
One study suggests a mindful eating practice assists with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight even without calorie counting (Robinson, 2013).
3. Stress reduction
Cortisol is sometimes called the stress hormone, and it’s involved in the body’s “flight-or-fight” response. When feelings of stress are high, cortisol levels are often high as well. Research suggests mindfulness-based exercises, including mindful eating, help reduce cortisol levels (Sanada, 2016).
4. Better digestion
Digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are affected by stress levels. Research suggests that mindful eating may help improve digestion by lowering stress levels, reducing overeating, and slowing down meals (Cherpak, 2019).
5. Reduced overeating and binge eating
Mindful eating provides a framework to help people pause their eating and check in with themselves. This pause helps break the cycle of overeating and binge eating by helping people slow down.
Research shows mindful eating reduces binge eating and emotional eating (Katterman, 2014). This could be related to the positive effects mindfulness-based practices have on reducing anxiety and depression (Behan, 2020).
6. Increased satisfaction with food
When you’re distracted while eating, you’re more likely to eat more food than while eating mindfully (Robinson, 2013). Research suggests mindful eating practices increase your awareness of your satisfaction cues (Cherpak, 2019). Over time, this could help reduce overeating while feeling fully satisfied after a meal, making it easier to maintain a balanced diet.
7. Healthier food choices
When you’re more aware of how food makes you feel, you may choose more nutritious foods. You can also increase your self-compassion to reduce emotional eating and focus more on foods that help you feel more energized. So instead of feeling overly full, bloated, and sluggish after meals, you may make food choices that help you feel better.