As a dietitian, I’ve seen the emotional and physical damage fad diets have done to my clients. Fad diets often warp your relationship with food, fill you with shame and guilt, damage your metabolism and generally make eating a struggle. Food is meant to be enjoyed and to nourish you, not fill you with anxiety and regret. The good news is that there is always time to fix the way we think of food. Mindful eating is one method of doing just that! Clinical studies show mindful eating helps people feel better about their bodies, prevent weight gain, cope with problematic eating (like binge eating disorder and bulimia), and have a better relationship with food.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is about using mindfulness, or a state of awareness, to bring full attention to your experiences, cravings and physical cues when eating.
On a basic level, mindful eating involves:
- Eating slowly and without distraction
- Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you’re full
- Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating
- Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes
- Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food
- Eating to maintain overall health and well-being
- Appreciating your food
Tips to Increase Mindful Eating
This is not easy. We live in a world that stresses instant results and hurrying; eating is no exception. Tell yourself to “slow down” or try to check in with your pace.
Mindful eaters tend to gauge their hunger first before taking a bite. Being in the moment and fully present is key to mindful eating. Take a brief moment to ask yourself before taking a bite, “Am I really, really hungry? Right now I am thinking about…” This can help prevent you from the trap of emotional eating.
It’s important to break free from old habits when learning to be mindful in your eating. When you know what habits keep you stuck such as multitasking when you eat or grazing while anxious, you can devote more energy and attention to these particular areas. Sometimes it is changing how you eat more than what you eat.
When practicing mindfulness, it is okay to seem “picky”. But it not the same as being a picky eater; rather, you are being discerning about the choices. Mindful eaters really taste food and if they don’t like it, they don’t eat it, just like picky eaters. Also, they aren’t afraid to tailor food to their particular taste. At restaurants, you may ask the wait staff to make a few tweaks to your order like holding the bacon or asking for Swiss cheese rather than Cheddar.
It’s not uncommon to still have times where you overeat. Be forgiving of yourself and know that times of eating beyond fullness is part of being human. When practicing mindful eating, don’t obsess or beat yourself up. Mindful eaters know that tomorrow is another day and can “let it go.“ Often the strategy is to adjust the amount you eat at the next meal or snack.
If mindful eating is something you think would be happy, I suggest you think about taking the next step and scheduling with a therapist or registered dietitian today. Trained professionals can help navigate the difficult waters of self-change and help you become more mindful in your habits. CLICK HERE to read more about our Clinicians.