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5 Tips for Mindful Eating

We know how important mindfulness can be in our daily lives and that it provides many wonderful benefits, but how about being mindful at mealtime? Yes, you guessed it, being mindful while eating has powerful benefits! This is especially true for a person who may be experiencing and struggling with unhealthy eating patterns, such as mindlessly overeating or eating unhealthy foods. 

The idea of mindfulness is being fully present and in the moment with your thoughts, sights, sounds, and experience. Therefore, mindful eating means being fully in tune with your eating experience, including being aware of the food you are eating, the taste, texture, flavor, and the experience while also paying close attention to your feelings and emotional state. This allows us to slow down while eating, be fully aware of the present moment with ourselves and the food we are putting into our bodies as well have a better overall relationship with food. 

A mindful eating practice can help with particular challenges, such as binge eating or overeating and it can also help anyone wanting to begin a more healthful eating habit. By slowing down and being more mindful while eating, this reduces overeating and creates more awareness of healthy eating.

Here are a few strategies to get you started with a mindful eating practice.

5 Tips for Mindful Eating:

1. Take the time: 

We live in a fast-paced and stressful culture and tend to rush through tasks during the day. One of those tasks is eating and mealtime, which is especially true during the busy workday. Most people will rush through their mealtime and not pay attention to what they are eating, how fast or how they are feeling. This type of situation often encourages people to eat more rapidly, rather than slowing down and actually enjoying their meal in the moment. This can encourage overeating since you are mindlessly rushing through so quickly that your brain and stomach do not have time to sufficiently communicate when you are full. 

Another common example of not taking the time to eat is snacking on the go or in front of the television. Again, these are situations that can encourage overeating as well as not being fully present in the moment. I know it can be difficult to always sit down for a meal, but when you can, try it! This is an important step to slowing down, being more aware of what you are doing in the moment and engaging in more mindful eating.

2. Breathe beforehand: 

Before you even begin to take a bite of your meal, sit still, and just breathe. This could be 5 deep breathes to slow yourself down and be fully present with the activity. By focusing on breath, this allows you to better connect to the moment. Remember mindfulness is about being fully aware of the present moment and in tune with how you are feeling. So take that time to take 5 deep breaths before beginning to eat and get yourself in a calm, connected, and mindful state.

3. Slow down: 

Once you start eating, slow down. We often become rushed and want to speed through the experience, which can actually increase overindulgence and the amount of food that we are taking in. Slow down and savor each bite. Similar to the breathing exercise before you began eating, you also want to slow down between bites and while chewing. You could even try taking a few deep breathes in between bites to really slow down take notice of your experience. During this time, be sure to connect to how you are feeling and everything that is happening in the moment.

4. Enjoy & savor: 

During this step, it’s important that you are aware of the moment and experience and actually enjoy the food that you are eating. Be sure to really take time to notice everything your current experience. It’s important to really savor each bite of food. This means that you will observe what the food looks like on your plate, take note of the colors, the shape, and size. Also, notice if the food has any smell and sit for a moment as you breathe them in. Then as you eat your meal, really savor the flavors in each bite. Notice how the food tastes, what flavors you taste, what the texture is like in your mouth and how the food feels as you eat. This step will allow you to be very aware, present and mindful of the food you are eating, which really encourages a more healthy eating pattern. 

5. Repeat: 

Like most new activities, it takes continued practice to really get the hang of it. Repeat this exercise many times until it becomes more of a habit during your mealtime routine. When you are beginning a new habit, it is easy to fall back into your same old routine. It really does take time, effort and practice. So try these techniques often and remember that if you get off track for a few days, that is completely normal. The key here is to get back on a healthy and more mindful path. It will take work and practice, but you are worth it.

For more information on mindful eating, check out our self-guided online class: Mindful Eating: A Healthy Relationship With Food. This class provides a workbook complete with information on emotional eating, mindful eating tips and homework assignments to guide you through the material as well as an hour and half of video series content. The class also comes with a guided mindful eating exercise.

Blog written by: Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist, Relationship Coach & Founder of the Loving Roots Project, an online wellness practice specializing in personal growth, mental wellness, & relationship betterment.

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