There are good reasons to pay more attention to the experience of eating. Here they are.
With the fast-paced lives many of us lead, we often don’t take the time to slow down and appreciate the present moment. This is especially true of mealtimes—eating is an activity we often do along with something else rather than focusing on the process of eating on its own. We may eat breakfast in the car, multi-task during lunch breaks or have dinner in front of the television.
Not only does eating under these circumstances provide little enjoyment, but it often doesn’t make us realize what or how much we eat. For these reasons and more, it is beneficial to eat in a more mindful way.
What is mindful eating?
The Buddhist concept of mindfulness refers to paying attention to your present thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and surroundings.
Mindful eating is about paying attention to the overall eating experience, as well as your thoughts and feelings about food. It also invites you to ponder why you’re eating—is it hunger, boredom, stress, sadness, happiness or something else? Because mindful eating encourages food choices that satisfy your senses and nourish your body, it may foster a healthier relationship with food and body image.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
One obvious benefit is that you will enjoy your food more and have a more pleasant experience, since you are paying attention to each aspect of the meal. Other benefits of mindful eating include, but are not limited to, a better understanding of your hunger cues and when you feel full, more control over food cravings and an improved appreciation for food in general.
Should I try mindful eating?
If you tend to engage in mindless eating, which can be characterized by erratic eating schedules, eating while distracted, not giving much thought to food choices or barely noticing what you eat, it’s worth giving mindful eating a try. Eating mindfully or mindlessly is not an all-or-nothing proposition. But you’ll likely find that the more you can focus on your eating experience, the more you’ll enjoy your food and the easier it is to make healthier food choices. It may even help you lose weight!
What should I do if I want to eat more mindfully?
There’s no right or wrong way to eat mindfully, but here are some tips that can help you get the most out of your eating experiences:
- Start with a meal where you have time to sit and enjoy it. Trying a new habit during your already hectic Monday morning may lead to undue stress.
- Eliminate distractions by turning off the television and removing all devices from the table.
- Before picking up your fork, explore the foods on your plate. What do they look like? How are they arranged? How do they smell?
- Chew slowly and thoroughly to truly taste the flavors of each bite.
- Put your fork down between bites so you aren’t tempted to rush.
- Focus on how the food makes you feel.
- Stop eating when you feel pleasantly satisfied.
Adopting any new habit takes time, so it may seem awkward at first to focus on your food and eating experience so much. But if you stick with it, you’ll likely reap many benefits from eating more mindfully.
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Date Last Reviewed: October 5, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Beth Stark, RDN, LDN