I’m often asked what diet I follow or what I think about this or that diet. But, I don’t follow any particular diet since I find restriction leads to more problems. It’s much better to have balanced, mostly healthy diet that’s enjoyable and sustainable (just like I approach practical fitness goals!).
Not sure what mindful eating is? Mindful eating actually stems from the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which is a form of meditation that helps you recognize and cope with emotions and physical sensations. (source)
So, mindful eating focuses on using mindfulness to reach a state of full attention to your experiences, cravings, and physical cues when eating (source). Mindful eating is different from emotional eating, because the goal is to to make a person feel nourished, satisfied, and content rather than eating to soothe or suppress an emotion.
What does that look like? Mindful eating includes things like:
Slowing down and eating without distraction.
Listening to physical hunger cues and eating until you’re just full and not past that.
Engaging your senses by the noticing colors, smells, textures, flavors and even the sounds of your food
Eating with a focus on overall health and your well-being, not just healthy eating. This will help your gut so much!
Appreciating your food, eating foods you love and trying new foods often
Your grocery list is a great place to start with mindful eating. When you make your list, be conscious about your food choices. Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time so you’re prepared with healthy, whole foods. Start paying attention to the foods you really enjoy and prepare meals with those ingredients. Not only will this help you eat mindfully, it takes the rush and pressure out of making multiple runs to the store a week. It also simplifies your week if you know what you’re eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week. Need inspiration? I share my dinner meal plans in my Facebook group each week. This will also allow you to try new types of food, and you may end up loving something.
I stock up on my grocery staples and Trader Joe’s staples each week so I have everything I need for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When you’re at the grocery store, look for local or organic foods. Choose foods that are seasonal, or, better yet, head to the farmers market so you can meet the people who grow your food!
Eat smaller portions
Another important facet of eating mindfully eating is portion size. This isn’t about restricting the amount that you eat for calorie’s sake, but rather to help train your body and mind to enjoy the foods you’re eating. There is a concept of diminishing returns that also applies eating where you enjoy the first bite more than any subsequent bite. Make a goal to enjoy every bite you take! If you have weight to lose, you may find that this does help you lose weight, but it’s not the primary goal of smaller portions. Learning how to stop eating when you’re full is so freeing.
Most of us don’t eat slowly. We scarf down food while rushing out the door, while working, or while trying to get kids to eat their dinner. I get that it can be hard to slow down. I rush all my meals with a new baby at home since he always wants to eat right when I sit down to eat (ha!), or I’m rushing so I can get him down for a nap. But when you can, slow down, take smaller bites, fully chew your food and appreciate the texture and taste.
Try to eat mindfully even for just one meal a day. Instead of scarfing down your breakfast, take 10 or 20 minutes to sit and enjoy your food, coffee or tea. It will help you appreciate your food and also help your body recognize if it’s full with smaller portions. Also, don’t multitask (i.e. working on your computer or scrolling your phone) while you eat.
Allow your body to digest the food and give your brain enough time to register that you’re full, instead of eating until you feel like you’re going to burst 15 minutes later. You’ll find this will contribute to a healthier gut as well!
Benefits Of Mindful Eating
Did you know that practicing mindful eating actually reduces stress? The entire focus of mindfulness is to slow down and appreciate your surroundings, and in this case, your food. Not only does it reduce the stress you may be feeling, it also reduces stress in our digestive system. As a society, we’re always moving at a mile a minute, focusing on getting more done in less time. Mindfulness is the opposite of that.
Helps with weight loss
While mindful eating is designed just for you you lose weight, it does typically help if you have weight to lose (source, Harvard Medical School). Slowing down and focusing on eating smaller meals will ultimately help you stop overeating. It also helps you choose foods you love, that are healthier. That doesn’t mean saying no to chocolate superfudge ice cream, it means eating one scoop instead of four and enjoying every single bite of it. Mindful eating also helps you decipher between boredom and physical hunger.
Enjoy the present moment
Food and meals around a table are meant to be enjoyed. A great way to implement this in your home is to have family dinners whenever possible. It’s such an important thing to gather around a table, and eating mindfully will allow your meals to be more focused and intentional. Enjoy your breakfast with your spouse and kids and carve out REAL time for lunch, instead of eating by your computer. Plan your dinners so that you can eat with family, or FaceTime someone and eat at the same time. (We try to do FaceTime dinner with my parents in Utah once a month!) Talk about your food, catch up on life and enjoy the time together.
If you’re single, enjoy dinner with your roommate. Or, enjoy making a nice meal just for yourself and enjoy every bite of food. I did this a lot when I lived alone. I enjoyed the process of cooking with a great glass of wine and then savored my meal.