Making Meals Mindful

An Overview of Mindful Eating

 What exactly is mindful eating?

Mindful eating creates a state of mind where you concentrate on being present and fully experiencing the current moment of eating. This includes focusing on all of the sensations of your food--observing how it looks, noticing the aroma, and feeling the texture and consistency. Mindful eating makes you more aware of your food choices and eating habits, along with your body’s nutritional needs and satiety cues. Eating mindfully means slowing down, appreciating the food you have in front of you, being satisfied with what you are eating, and fully paying attention to what you are putting in your body. It can benefit any shape, size, or walk of life and shifts your perspective to investing the time in your health.

What are the benefits of eating mindfully?

Practicing mindful eating may help you lose weight and keep the weight off by becoming more aware of how much you are eating. Mindful eating can also help you eat less on impulse, control calorie intake, and choose more nutritious meals and snacks. With the busyness of life, it is easy to forget to eat or not realize when you are hungry. Mindful eating allows you to take your mind off of your surroundings as you consider if you’re hungry and what your body needs.

Research shows that mindfulness can benefit those with cardiovascular disease, depression, chronic pain, and cancer. Jean Kristeller, PhD implemented a Mindful Eating Awareness Training that encouraged diabetic participants to combine their mindful self-awareness around food with their knowledge about nutrition. Participants experienced significant weight loss, improved glycemic control, increased fiber intake, and lower trans-fat and sugar consumption.

Here are 4 tips for eating more mindfully:

  1. Focus on your Food: It is important to intentionally sit at a table or designated eating space where you can give your full focus to a meal or snack. Take slow bites and mindfully taste every flavor. It may be helpful to put your fork down in between bites to bring awareness of how fast or slow you are eating. You may also set a timer to help yourself from eating too quickly.
  2. Eliminate Distractions: Make mealtime a separate activity from common distractions of daily life. Avoid watching television while eating, which is a mindless activity that can cause you to lose track of how much you are consuming. Working on the computer or scrolling through your phone is also a major mealtime distraction. These activities take our mind off of paying attention to our natural hunger cues, which may cause you to eat much more than planned. 
  3. Serve an Appropriate Portion: It’s possible to be mindful of portions without obsessing over portion sizes. Listen to your body’s natural hunger signals and dish up sensible portions of food onto a plate. It is helpful to use a smaller plate rather than filling up a large dinner plate. When snacking, serve yourself a portion on a plate or bowl instead of eating from an open package. You may even realize that you are full before finishing everything you have served yourself!
  4. Truly Appreciate your Meal: If you are the one preparing your meal, acknowledge and enjoy the act of cooking. Use fresh ingredients with spices and herbs to add flavor and color to your dishes. Listen to the sounds of your food cooking and take in the aromas as the meal is coming together. Pause for a few seconds before you begin eating to appreciate everything it took to make this meal that will nourish your body. Reflect on the ingredients and enjoy the combination of flavors. If your meal was prepared for you, consider its source and express gratitude to those who contributed.

How Do I Begin?

Just like any new habit, mindful eating may take some time to implement and will begin to feel more natural over time. Start by selecting one meal a day for the first week to intentionally practice eating mindfully. Take a few minutes to write down your thoughts and what you are learning as you start to develop this habit. Enjoy the journey to a better you through mindful eating!

 

 Written by: Lacey Anderson, Andrea Carlisle, Cara Mowery, Meghan Server, Makayla Womble, and Latasha Yoder – Dietetic Interns, Meredith College

References

  1. Harris C. Mindful Eating — Studies Show This Concept Can Help Clients Lose Weight and Better Manage Chronic Disease. Today's Dietitian. 2013;15(3):42.
  2. Carriere K, Khoury B, Gunak MM, Knauper B. Mindfulness‐based interventions for weight loss: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obes Rev. 2018;19(2):164-177. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12623.
  3. Crafti M. Mindful eating: less than perfect. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2013;7(2):e19. https://doi-org.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/10.1016/j.orcp.2013.12.537.
  4. Jordan CH, Wang W, Donatoni L, Meier BP. Mindful eating: trait and state mindfulness predict healthier eating behavior. Pers Individ Dif. 2014;68:107-111.

 

 

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