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What is Mindful Eating?

mindful eating

Mindfulness means presence of the mind in the moment, while acknowledging your thoughts and senses

In medical research across many areas of health sciences show many positive effects of mindfulness practice on health. Those include lower cortisol levels, improved pain perception, and improved success of therapies for conditions such as psoriasis, DM-2, ADHD, and sleep disturbance. Mindfulness practice helps individuals develop skills for self-regulation by improving awareness of emotional and sensory cues, which are also important in altering one’s relationship with food.

The concept of mindfulness can be applied on mindful eating means being fully attentive to our food. Below are components of a mindfulness-based eating program:

  • Cultivating Mindfulness: Developing skills such as directing attention, disengaging reactivity, being non-judgmental, and learning how to utilize those skills into our daily eating functions.
  • Cultivating Mindful Eating: Putting the above skills into action.
ConceptExercise
Becoming familiar with feeling of hungerBreathing exercises, body scan, hunger meditation and journaling
Developing awareness of taste satisfaction: savoring and enjoying foodEating favorite foods such as chocolate, cheese and crackers, and paying attention to sensations, journaling
Making mindful choices based on both ‘liking’ and healthChoice: chips, cookies, or grapes.  Reading labels. Pre-planning and managing social influences
Developing awareness of satiety (fullness)Fullness awareness rating/scale during pot-luck dinner, favorite meal
Awareness of negative self-judgement related to eatingIdentifying black and white thinking.  Going to all-you-can-eat buffet and ‘surfing the urge’; experiencing “I blew it” mindset

(Table 1: courtesy of OMA Aug 9, 2018)

Developing and incorporating mindfulness skills into our daily lives may require adjusting to and may take more than a few attempts. It is important that we practice patience and a non-judgmental attitude and learn from each attempt. 

8 tips for mindful eating: 

  • Bring an appetite to the table, but not ravenous hunger.
  • Eat without distractions. Avoid eating in front of the TV.
  • Start with a small portion.
  • Appreciate your food. Express gratitude.
  • Bring all senses to the table. Pay attention to color, texture, aroma, ingredients, and seasoning.
  • Eat slowly. Take small bites and chew thoroughly.
  • Pay attention to fullness cues and stop eating once you begin to feel satisfied.
  • Keep some healthy snacks on the go in case you get hungry.

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