Introduction to Mindful Eating

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This post was co-written by Kyra Arsenault, nutrition student at University of Massachusetts Lowell. 

When was the last time you spent moments intently aware of and focused on what you are doing? In today’s fast-paced living, constant media exposure, and multi-tasking culture, it can be difficult to not be distracted doing any task. If you can relate to this, you may also find it to be hard to sit down and enjoy a meal or snack - something we may do several times a day.

Mindfulness is the ability to be present, and aware of the moment you are in. Allowing thoughts to pass through your mind, recognizing them, and letting them go without judgment, like a branch drifting down a river. Being aware of sensations. What you physically feel, see, hear, smell, and taste.

According to The Center for Mindful Eating, Mindful Eating is “choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body, acknowledging your responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment, and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.”

Many folks are interested in learning how to become a more mindful eater. Here are some suggestions for you to get started:

  • Try starting with a simple snack, rather than an entire meal.
  • Sit down while eating.
  • You can turn off the TV, or silence your phone
  • Look at the food, without making judgments about it.  Just appreciating it for what it is: nourishment for your body.  
  • Take a moment to recognize it, show gratitude for it, and appreciate what it took for you to get the food or prepare it.
  • Throughout this process, if you hear a judgment coming on the food or yourself, or even an irrelevant thought, instead of getting frustrated, let it go by and continue to remain in the moment.
  • Notice the colors, the aroma, and the texture of your food.
  • Taste each item on your plate, and describe it to yourself.  Is this bite sweet? Salty? Sour? A combination of flavors? What does the texture feel like? Is it crunchy or creamy?  Dry or moist?

An important thing to remember when practicing mindful eating is not to judge yourself if it does not feel "perfect”. There is no perfect way to eat mindfully, and sometimes mindful eating can be a challenging or uncomfortable process.

By practicing mindful eating, you are allowing yourself to see how food is a gift of nourishment, without judgments  It helps you to become more in tune with your body, and encourages you to listen to your needs for nourishment and satisfaction from food.

If you are interested in learning more about mindful eating, here are some great resources to get started:

The Center for Mindful Eating

8 Steps to Mindful Eating

The Mindful Dietitian Resources List

Food & Nutrition Magazine article: Mindful Eating: Resources for Mindfulness and Meditation