“When practiced to its fullest, mindful eating turns a simple meal into a spiritual experience, giving us a deep appreciation of all that went into the meal’s creation as well as a deep understanding of the relationship between the food on our table, our own health, and our planet’s health”

Too often, we find ourselves hastily rushing through life, whipping past good eats, great conversations, and enriching experiences.

The fast life seems to result in fast meals… or skipped meals! In either case, we always seem to be fighting against the clock, leaving our health on the back burner.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment, without judgement or evaluation. In the same vein, mindful eating implores us to slow down and bring our full awareness to each and every meal.

Remember the “eating rules” of your youth? Sit down! Don’t watch TV while you eat! Chew your food 30 times!

While well-intentioned, these rigid guidelines attempted to harness our attention in a one-size-fits-all approach to food. Mindful eating acknowledges that each of us are different: mind, body, and soul. The way you experience food is not the same way I experience food. It honors that eating is a deeply personal, almost sacred experience, best served with a side of consciousness.

Where diets tend to focus on outcome, mindful eating is a complete shift in mindset. It focuses on the sensual awareness and experience of eating, without regard for carbs or calories. Its purpose is to create a healthier lifestyle through presence. When we hold space for an “in the moment” meal, we empower ourselves by taking responsibility for what we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat, ultimately benefiting our physical and mental wellbeing.

Techniques for Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a change in our approach to eating. The focus is not on how we might look or feel months from now, but how we experience food right now . We achieve this not only by tapping into all of our senses, but also by putting away distractions, creating an engaging environment with our table settings, and getting into a receptive mindset.

One approach to mindful eating is to experience food like you’ve never eaten before.

Aside from the Beginner’s Mind technique, we can also practice conscious consumption through:

1. NON JUDGEMENT

Show up with curiosity. Every meal is a blank slate. An opportunity for a new experience. Release any prior associations or connotations. You are merely an observer.

2. PATIENCE

Take it slow. This isn’t a race. In fact, lunch or dinner might be the only time of day that doesn’t feel like a race. Take a breath and let the experience unfold one moment at a time.

3. ACCEPTANCE

This is the main tenet of mindfulness, and the difference between presence and distraction. Release all expectations and embrace the now. This moment is as it was meant to be.

4. AWARENESS

Are you reaching for that bag of chips because you’re hungry? Or is it because you’re bored, anxious, sad, or stressed? Eating mindfully is eating with intention. If your desire isn’t hunger, find a better response to the emotion at hand. Likewise, taking a pause during meals to assess if you’re no longer hungry prevents overeating.

Mindful Eating and Stress

Did you know that mindful eating has been linked to a decline in stress?

A 2011 clinical study found that mindful eating resulted in a successful reduction of cortisol levels (the dreaded stress hormone!), anxiety, and emotional eating.

As well, the practice of eating calmly and avoiding overeating promotes healthy digestion, which is linked to clearer skin and a stronger immune system. The beneficial domino effect that comes with mindful eating often results in an overall healthier lifestyle.

Mindful Eating and Weight Loss

Though one of the goals of eating mindfully is to avoid focusing on future results, a vast majority of studies show that weight loss is a common outcome of mindful eating.

Studies also show that at least 85% of people who utilize diets to lose weight end up gaining it back or even exceeding their initial weight within just a few years. Factors such as binge eating, emotional eating, and chronic exposure to stress are usually to blame. Mindful eating works because it addresses each of those things.

Changing our relationship with food, and replacing our negative feelings around it with intention, significantly increases the chances of long-term weight loss success.