Eating mindfully can help you avoid both overeating and suppressing your hunger. It can make you aware if you are bingeing or seeking comfort in fast foods, and it can help you avoid them.
Most crucially, once you learn mindful eating techniques, you will be able to naturally restrict your eating to only what your body requires.
Mindfulness is a scientifically proven strategy for increasing awareness of everyday activities like eating. It allows you to thoroughly enjoy a meal, rediscover flavors, and consume in moderation.
Studies suggest that mindfulness-based habits can improve the way we eat and can help us lose extra pounds, and control our blood sugar if we have type 2 diabetes.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is paying undivided attention to our eating process from start to finish, with curiosity, savoring, and non-judgment. It is engaging with the food through our senses in the present moment. It also involves appreciating the food’s journey from the farm to the table and finally into our bodies.
Mindful eating (i.e., paying attention to our food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment) is an approach to food that focuses on individuals’ sensual awareness of the food and their experience of the food. It has little to do with calories, carbohydrates, fat, or protein.— Joseph B. Nelson, Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat, 2017
Mindfulness helps you identify and accept your emotions and sensations as they happen, without reacting to them more than necessary.
Mindful eating helps your brain and gut to communicate with each other, so you know exactly when you are hungry, satisfied, or over-full. It helps you understand if a food craving is emotional or physical.
It increases your awareness of food-based triggers, like junk food advertisements, and enables you to respond rationally to them.
20 Practical Mindful Eating Techniques
Mindfulness is keeping the mind within the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
When we apply mindfulness to eating, we engage with our food and eat it with love and intention, rather than gulping down whatever is on our plate.
Here are 20 techniques to help you optimize your mindful eating process. Learn to approach each bite you take with curiosity, gratitude, and non-judgment.
1. Pay Attention While Eating
This is the basic and primary premise of mindful eating.
Gather all your attention from everywhere else and apply all of it to your food and eating.
Your attention is mostly scattered at any point in your day because you are great at multitasking (which is a bad habit).
The modern lifestyle has made you a deft juggler at doing many things at the same time. And the time you do this most often is when you are eating.
That is the time you take calls, reply to emails and messages, check your social media, watch videos, or play games on your phone.
You are bad at paying attention to your food. You feel you are wasting your precious minutes eating your food with your entire attention to it.
So, you eat while watching movies and shows. You eat while using your phone for everything that can be done with the device.
Probably, you are so busy with those other activities that you don’t even realize whether it is food or paper you are chewing.
Even when you are about to start a fine meal at a great place, your best attention to it comes before you even pick up the spoon – when you take a picture and share it with your friends and followers.
Soon after, your interest wanes and your focus veers off from your meal to other things.
Stop doing that. Instead:
- Savor the food with all your senses.
- Pay your best attention to your eating.
- See the details, smell the aroma, and appreciate the texture.
- Switch off your screen (if not your phone) when you sit down to eat.
- Let the feelings pervade your mind as you chew and taste its bites with love.
Download this article: 20 Most Practical Tips To Eat With Mindfulness
2. Do Not Rush Through Eating
You are eating your food, not making a dash-or-die run through a windstorm. Start with these questions to yourself:
- Do you always feel you need to rush through your eating?
- Are you proud that you are a fast eater?
- Do you eat your lunch at your desk to save time?
- How many minutes does a rushed meal save you?
Answering the questions above will help you understand your eating behavior better.
If you are always in a mad rush to push the food down your gullet and run back to whatever you were doing, then do you realize your stomach needs at least 20 minutes to digest the food?
Eating is a process that needs your time. When you eat your food slowly, you get to savor it and understand well in advance when to pause or stop.
But when you rush the process, firstly you fail to realize if you have eaten much more than what your body would have wanted you to.
Your hurrying only aims at finishing the food on the plate, without letting you know if you actually need it or not.
Secondly, you do not give your stomach enough time to churn the food in small amounts. You fill it up and force it to deal with all of it together.
This results in bloating and acid brash (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD).
Eating on the go is not something you should be proud of. Often it gets embarrassing when others make egregious remarks about your eating speed (“Hey, there isn’t famine coming tonight!”).
Another great tip is this: hara hachi bu.
The tradition of hara hachi bu originated in Okinawa, an island city in Japan.
Okinawa is a blue zone. Blue zones are locations on earth where people have very long and healthy lives. Find more on it in Dan Buettner’s brilliant book The Blue Zones Solution, which offers the keys to living like the healthiest people on the planet.
While eating, Okinawans are aware of how full their bellies are.
They stop the moment they realize their stomachs are nearly full, but never completely full. It helps them control their appetite and prevents overeating.
3. Do Not Skip Any Major Meal
Your three major meals are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When you skip one of these, it becomes quite a formidable challenge to make the right food choices at the next mealtime.
With a skipped meal, the next time you feel hungry, you grab anything that presents itself for a bite. And what you grab is mostly unhealthy food.
Missing your lunch could lead you to grab some fast food and eat it in the car on your way back home. You stop at a vending machine to pick up something junk or visit the nearest superstore for a bite of snack food.
To prevent this, you need to give your body the discipline of timed meals.
And to achieve that, it goes best to plan all your meal times early in the day. It is difficult, of course. But it gives some great results.
So, sit down with a diary or planner in the morning and fix what are you going to eat for the day, along with the time for each meal.
Do this for a week, and you find it becomes an exciting and feel-good exercise. Follow this for a few weeks until you feel you are confident enough to have weekly plans for meals ready at your disposal.
If, in a month or so, there is a need for change, go back to your planner and make modifications as you feel the best. Repeat.
Once you create a plan, follow it through with dedication and discipline.
Even if you slip up sometimes, your success is in going back to the good habit. When you miss it, you do not fail.
Instead, you learn something new by analyzing why you gave it a miss.
4. Always Chew Your Food Well
Is there a magic number to guide you to how many times you must chew your food?
Yes, it is 32, as most people say. That number equals the number of teeth an adult human has.
However, thirty-two may not be an always-on number. For more chewy things, your teeth may need to grind it 40 times, while for softer things, it could take around 20. It is not a holy grail figure.
To be fair, it is only a helpful number to guide you on how many times you should chew any morsel.
As you might know, digestion begins in the mouth. It starts when we chew on the food. A good chewing practice mashes and liquefies the food so that the stomach has to do less work when it reaches there.
Chewing also mixes the food with the digestive enzymes present in the saliva. And saliva contains the enzyme ptyalin, which breaks down starch into simpler sugars. Thus, with proper chewing, you could digest up to 30% of the starch in our food.
- Chewing well reduces your chances of choking on food.
- When you chew well, you also tend to eat less.
- Good chewing helps you slow down your eating speed and lets you taste your food fully.
So, masticate (or chew) your food well.
5. Avoid Overeating At All Times
The primary goal and reason for eating, we often forget, is to satisfy hunger and to keep the body healthy. And so because we forget that the basic reason, we often end up eating way more than our bodies need.
We live in a culture that revolves around food, and a world that produces more food than we could ever eat. It leads to most of us eating mindlessly, that is, eating with our minds roaming elsewhere.
We rarely realize there is only a thin line between eating enough and overeating. The reason is mostly the same attitude of mindlessness we carry to your eating tables.
You keep on eating for reasons you’re not aware of most of the time. How often do you realize you’ve eaten to finish the food rather than to fill your hunger?
But if you’re mindful, it becomes easy to sense the point when you are no more hungry and can walk away from your plate.
While eating, make it a goal to eat until you’re satiated. Make this decision a little before your food arrives. Otherwise, once the food sits before you, your unconscious intention is to clean it off the plate. Eat to nourish yourself. Learn to set a limit on the food you will eat and watch yourself when eating.
A good practice is to use smaller portions in one go. It makes you move to get another helping of the food. If possible, ask to limit the serving at your table as you eat.
6. Connect Deeply With Your Food
Do not start eating the moment you reach your plate. Do not pounce on the food as soon as you get to it.
To sound rude, that’s what animals do. They don’t know when or where the next food is coming through, but you know you have plentiful.
So, you need not jump at your food as if the next one is uncertain to come by.
- Instead, think about the food’s journey from the field to your plate.
- Let your mind flip through the images of people who made it possible to get you fed today.
- Take a few moments to thank them in your mind.
- It will help you connect with your food in a more meaningful way.
- In some ways, connecting with your food and being grateful for it is perhaps the most crucial part of mindful eating.
When you reflect on the entire process that made it possible for you to eat today, you feel connected to the web of life.
You no more see your food as something that came off a supermarket shelf.
Instead, you see the thousands of hands that worked for it.
This realization can be a wake-up call to be more appreciative and respectful of your food from now on.
7. Respect The Food
Honor your meal and express gratitude before you start eating. Thank the people (farmer, transporter, cook) who made your meal possible. Have some water before your first bite; it signals your stomach to get ready to receive food.
8. Do Not Talk Shop
Do not talk or think about work or news or problems. Do not take your fights and arguments to the dining table. Do not feed yourself anger and resentment while eating your food.
9. Eat Silently, Without Talking
Eat in silence while savoring your food. If you must talk, then keep your conversations around nutrition and food. Eat in peace, without any diversions, like television, laptop, or mobile.
10. Take Moderate Servings
Let each serving be modest. Moderation is of the essence when it comes to mindful eating. Smaller portions make you eat less and waste less, as you’re not ‘nudged’ by a larger serving to eat until the last bite.
Download this article: 20 Most Practical Mindful Eating Techniques (PDF).
11. Eat Slow, Without Any Hurry
Eat slow. At least make one major meal of your day a celebration of slow eating.
Slowing down our eating process allows your brains to catch up with your body, clearly reading the signals if it’s full.
The slow eating movement that is the new rage the world over is an ideal way to practice mindful eating.
For example, it is customary to have two-hour-long dinners in Spain. The Spanish people savor the smells and flavors of their meals while leisurely sipping their wine.
When you eat with mindfulness, you also find it easier to realize when your stomach indicates it would rather not take any more food, and you need to stop stuffing your mouth.
The three principles of slow eating are to take smaller mouthfuls than usual, chew each mouthful for longer than normal, and pause between mouthfuls.
Eat with your whole consciousness. Take brief breaks between a few bites.
Ask yourself from time to time while eating if you’re feeling satiated.
12. Address Your Anxiety Issues
Comfort foods are for comforting your unhappy feelings – like sadness, loneliness, boredom, anger, stress, and frustration. Address them first. Solve them instead of soothing yourself out of those unpleasant feelings through food.
To help your anxiety issues, always make eating a dedicated process. Sit down at the table, serve the food on a bowl or plate, then eat.
Plan ahead when and what you will eat—it reduces stress and allows for mindful eating. Planning ahead also makes you more likely to eat only the type and amount your body needs.
When someone learns mindful eating, they realize that they are about to engage in emotional eating, and take steps to address those issues first.
Mindful eaters embrace their negative emotions rather than avoiding feeling them with comfort food.
13. Avoid Places That Lure Into Eating
Stay sharply aware of the situations and places that make you eat automatically.
You might be usually eating meals while watching movies or munching things while catching up on a television show. These are forms of mindless eating. Avoid them like the plague.
14. Do Not Eat From The Box
Do not eat your food out of the pack or pot it came in. Don’t buy or consume ready-to-eat foods.
Keep away from food that may be consumed directly from the box or bottle.
Do not buy ready-to-eat foods. Ready-to-eat foods are the ones that we eat most mindlessly. Stay out of sight of these.
If you must have them, then keep them at the back of the refrigerator, or on the topmost shelf in your kitchen cabinet.
Do not buy ready-to-drink juices. They carry unhealthy amounts of sugar while easily fooling you to think you are having natural, wholesome food.
On average, fresh fruit juices last 48-72 hours. Beyond 72 hours, they lose most of their nutrients because of oxidation and temperature. They turn dark and dull, smell unfresh and acidic, and acquire a repulsive taste.
A refrigerator can help them last 5-6 days, while freezing them can let them stay good for 6 months. However, the problem is that frozen juices lose taste.
Usually, fruits are collected during their season, juiced, preservatives added, and then freeze-dried for later use.
So, the juice companies must add artificial flavors and sugars to make the juice taste like the original. In fact, store-bought juices are made from fruits harvested roughly a year ago.
15. Have A Mindful Kitchen
Have a mindful kitchen. Keep all your food ingredients arranged neatly. Organize your kitchen in such a way that it doesn’t tax your brain to find out where is a certain thing when you need it. Stay stocked on healthy foods more than snack-type foods.
16. Eat A Variety of Foods
Eat a variety of nutritionally healthy foods. When you eat foods of different types, colors, textures, or tastes, you find it easier to pay attention to them. A colorful salad along with cooked food provides two different mindful experiences.
17. Follow The Sit-Slow-Savor Rule
The 3 S’s of mindful eating are to sit down, slow down, and savor down. However, it needs conscious practice to put it all together with every meal. Sitting down is easy. Slowing down can be helped with a timer or alarm clock. Set the timer to a few minutes more each day. And eat slowly to fill up the whole of the new time.
Savoring down is the opposite of shoveling down.
18. Buy And Store Healthful Foods
Stock up on healthy foods. Go grocery shopping with a food list you had made mindfully over some days. Eat from restaurants that make wholesome food, not fast food.
19. Cook Novel Types of Food
Learn to cook different and novel types of food. For example, when you wish to learn to make hummus or hash, you take yourself through a series of novel experiences – watching or reading the recipes, shopping for the ingredients, making the food, tasting it, and then eating it. It expands your mindful eating practice into a celebration and adventure.
20. Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is time-restricted eating, which can help bring more mindfulness into your eating.
Typically, it means fasting for 16 hours and eating all your meals during a window of 8 hours per day. It is called 16:8 IF.
Some experts may go up to 20:4, that is, 20 hours of fasting and a 4-hour window of eating.
Studies suggest that daily intermittent fasting promotes weight loss, improves heart health, boosts brain function, increases longevity, reduces insulin resistance, minimizes oxidative stress, decreases inflammation, and may help prevent Alzheimer’s.
- IF can help you become more mindful of your eating patterns and hunger. You realize how time-restricted eating makes you more aware of your nutritional needs at meal times.
- IF can help you feel grateful in your heart for the people who made the food you’re eating possible.
- IF improves the taste and aroma of meals. It allows you to enjoy your morsels more.
- IF encourages meal planning, healthy eating, avoiding sugary foods, and a relaxed eating style.
Download this article: 20 Most Practical Mindful Eating Techniques (PDF).
What is the mindful eating approach?
Mindful eating is intentionally paying attention to our food and eating in the present moment, without judgment. It is an approach toward food that focuses on a fulsome sensory experience with our food, while also being grateful for it. It excludes any focus on calorie consciousness, the comfort level of foods, or the luxury dining ambiance.
A mindful eater focuses on the food while they eat it, appreciating, savoring, and being thankful for it, whether it is homemade or gourmet.
What are the 3 mindful eating habits?
The three simplest mindful habits include eating without interruptions, focusing on the taste while eating slowly, and stopping when we are nearly full because food loses flavor when we overeat.
Why do we overeat?
For most practical purposes, we overeat because:
1. we fail to note our body’s signals that we’re full,
2. we’re afraid we might not eat a splendid meal for a long time,
3. we have food left on our plate or table that we feel we must finish,
4. we’ve paid for unlimited servings, so why not stuff as much as we can,
5. we’re encouraged to overeat to show our appreciation for the food.
Mindfulness in eating needs daily practice. But it doesn’t mean you have to eat every meal with mindfulness from tomorrow.
The idea is to play a graceful host to mindfulness in your daily life. Begin by being mindful of at least one important meal of the day.
• • •
Mindfulness meditation has helped people live more purposefully and gratefully. It has helped thousands develop coping skills for chronic pain, depression, sleeping problems, and anxiety.
Get this free beginners’ guide (no email required): 7-Step Guide To Mindfulness Meditation.
• • •
Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, mindfulness, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
√ If you enjoyed this, please share it on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.