Mindful eating is paying attention to our food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment. It is an approach to food that focuses on using all of our senses to cultivate awareness of the food and our experience of the food.
Mindful eating can look a variety of different ways. It can be simply sitting down to eat a meal and slowing down as we eat. Connecting to how food is made and where it comes from, where it’s grown, and how it got to its current form. It can be using all of our senses, such taste, smell, touch, to engage with the food as we’re eating or preparing it. It can be simply being aware of why we’re eating specific foods at certain times. It can be eating without distractions. When we remove these distractions and pay attention in the present moment to the food we are eating, the thoughts we have about it, and the way it makes us feel, we are better able to discover and explore new things about ourselves and our relationship with food.
Mindful eating can also look like eating without judgement. Have you ever judged what you were eating as “good” or “bad” or judged how much food you put on your plate? Eating without judgment is simply noticing these thoughts and opinions as they arise and being curious about why they are arising rather than judging them.
Perhaps when you were younger you overheard your mom always saying how she shouldn’t be eating certain foods because they were “bad” or maybe you were always the one to eat the most out of your friends and that made you feel self conscious. There are so many reasons why we have the thoughts and feelings about food that we do and its important to recognize these thoughts and think about why and how we got them and how they might be influencing our eating habits and choices.
So when does this process of mindful eating begin? Mindful eating begins as soon as we choose our food – whether that’s in a grocery store or at a restaurant. It begins when we decide what it is that we are going to put into our bodies.
Oftentimes, our emotions, our relationships with ourselves, and our pasts affect the choices we make, especially when it comes to food. When we are present though, we are much more aware of how we’re feeling in the moment and therefore, better able to make more thoughtful food choices.
Mindful eating really helps us gain insight into HOW and WHY we eat. It is not about judging our food choices or habits but instead focusing on the HERE and NOW of eating by paying close attention to taste, textures, and sensations. And by doing so, we actually can really savor each bite and get more enjoyment out of our food.
Being mindful also allows us to slow down and be more in tune with how our bodies respond to certain foods. For example, noticing how certain foods make us feel after eating them — whether they make us feel good and energized or bloated and sluggish.
When we practice mindful eating, we also become more aware, without judgement, of our emotions, physical hunger, and the cues that signal to us that our hunger has been satiated. It helps us determine why we’re eating — if it is because we’re truly hungry or because we’re emotional, anxious, and/or bored. In other words, mindful eating is really about taking the time to be aware of how we feel when we eat.
Lastly, mindful eating is focused on the experience of eating and not the outcome. For instance, it is not focused on achieving weight loss or about cutting out certain foods, or counting calories. It is about experiencing food with all of our senses in the present moment with an openness and curiosity. And although mindful eating is not focused on any specific outcome, when we do take a mindful approach, we actually tend to consume less, enjoy our food more, and select healthier, more nourishing foods.