How to Eat Mindfully
Improve your relationship with food using mindfulness
Learning how to eat mindfully is an important skill in improving your relationship with food. Mindfulness is more than just a buzzword that has shown up in the world of counselling and psychology. Mindfulness is the act of bringing attention to the present moment, with intention, and without judgement. Mindfulness can include meditation, but it is not only meditation.
Mindfulness doesn’t mean we shut off our brains or our emotions. It is not that we will not feel big emotions or have strong reactions, but it allows us to notice the emotions and thoughts when they happen giving us a buffer so that we can choose how we want to respond.
Mindfulness can be done as a formal practice or as moments throughout each day. Mindfulness has been used for stress management, as part of mental health treatment, improving self-confidence and self-compassion, as well as in pain management. I would personally add another bonus item to this list of the benefits of mindfulness. Learning how to eat mindfully improves your relationship with food and your body.
Learning how to eat mindfully
When you are eating, just eat.
To do this remember to remove distractions, turn off the screens around you, and sit with the food you are going to eat. Try to simply taste the food, and pay attention to what you notice about the eating experience.
When your mind drifts to other thoughts, try to bring yourself back to the food. You will likely have to do this over and over again, and that is okay!
Use all of your senses.
The most common mindfulness practice related to eating is one that uses all your 5 senses. This practice explores the experience of eating food. To do this, try these steps:
- When you pick up your food or drink, stop and look at it. Look for something you have never noticed before.
- As you lifted it up, did it feel heavier or lighter than you expected? Is it smooth or does it have edges to it?
- Does it make any sounds?
- When you put it in your mouth, pause. What is the texture? Is the taste what you expected?
- When you chew it or move it around in your mouth, does the flavour change? What do you feel?
- And finally, when you decide to swallow it, what sensations do you notice in your body?
Now for many people, including myself at first, this practice felt like a lot and overwhelming if the expectation was to do it all the time or if food is a stressor for you.
So I would suggest that if you want to try mindful eating in this way, try it at most once a day and only for a few bites to bring awareness and attention to your present moment.
Mindfulness during eating
For many of my clients, we use mindfulness around times of eating instead of actively engaging in mindfulness with food.
Before you eat
Try adding mindfulness before eating. For example, if you are someone who has experienced IBS symptoms or discomfort with eating, or if eating causes some stress for you try deep belly breathing before you eat.
To do this breathe deeply in through your nose, filling your belly with air. Try to push that stomach out as far as you can, and then exhale through your mouth and relax your abdomen. Do this 3-5 times. Then sit down to eat your meal or snack.
After you eat
Try mindfulness after you eat. This can help if you are someone who struggles with judgement of food and you tend to get caught overthinking about what you ate after you ate it.
To do this, you can use one of many mindfulness strategies. My personal favourite is doing something that will pull your full attention. For example, I will sit down to do a puzzle or count how many times I can pet the dog before my mind drifts. When your mind does drift, simply notice that, and bring your thoughts back to the task at hand.
Learning how to eat mindfully takes patience
While mindfulness sounds easy it can be difficult to do. Mindfulness in general and learning how to eat mindfully takes patience and practice.
Read more of our past blogs related to how to eat mindfully here:
- Mindful eating for health and meal satisfaction
- Mindful eating: how you eat is as important as what you eat
- When is mindful eating an effective strategy for eating disorders?
- What is the best food for YOUR body. Mindful eating advice for your body
“Living moment by moment, and seeing everything afresh without judgement and worry lets us experience life rather than simply get through it”
Excerpt from Dr. Patrizia Collard’s book: The Little Book of Mindfulness
Mindfulness with food is not for everyone and can be problematic if you are currently struggling with an eating disorder. If you want to learn more about whether or not mindfulness is a good fit for you or other ways that you could practice mindfulness that may help to improve your relationship with food, then please reach out to use at Health Stand Nutrition and ask!
Find out more about our in-person and online Dietitian nutrition counseling services here: REVIEW OUR REGISTERED DIETITIAN NUTRITION COUNSELING SERVICES
Disordered Eating, Emotional Eating & Sports Nutrition
Fitness enthusiast and lover of all things food, Jana is passionate about helping her clients improve their relationship with food and their body. She is a strong, motivational leader. Jana also offers the balance of a warm, supportive coaching style to nudge her clients from their comfort zone while feeling safe and supported. She specializes in mental health, eating disorders, body image and sports nutrition.