Helping our clients develop skillsets to adopt healthy lifestyle habits is within the purvue of health coaching and personal training. The practice of mindful eating is one of those skills we can teach them. It’s about developing awareness of your eating experiences, physical cues, and feelings about food. Practicing mindful eating has many benefits and is a lifelong practice that can benefit a person’s physical and mental health.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating can include:
- Eating when you experience hunger signals (i.e. low energy, stomach growling)
- Listening to your body’s signals while eating and stopping when you are full
- Recognizing non-hunger triggers for eating
- Eating nutrient-dense foods
- Eating foods that make you feel well
- Eating slowly and without distraction
- Learning to cope with food guilt or anxiety
- Noticing the effects food has on energy level and feelings
- Appreciating and enjoying your food
Benefits of mindful eating
Benefits to mindful eating can include:
- Reduced stress
- Reduce food guilt and food anxiety
- Prevent yo-yo dieting
- Reduce binge eating
- Reduce food cravings
- Potential weight loss
- Increased enjoyment
- Increased control and self-efficacy around food
- Potential for improved digestion
Mindful eating and unhealthy eating behaviors
Eating mindfully and with purpose may prevent and treat unhealthy eating behaviors and eating disorders. For many, eating can be enjoyable, empowering, and nourishing experience. For others, eating can be a mindless activity or a very emotional and stressful experience. For those that struggle with unhealthy eating behaviors such as overeating, binge eating, emotional eating, anorexia, or bulimia, the practice of mindful eating can help.
Mindful eating focuses on the experience of eating food. It gives you the choice to experience your emotional and physical sensations while eating, notice the flavors, textures, colors of food, and recognize when you feel satisfied (the hallmark of the aforementioned practice of intuitive eating). This can take away food drama and restore a healthy relationship with food and the experience of eating.
How to practice mindful eating
Some things are certainly easier said than done. Mindfulness is a difficult practice to cultivate but it helps to incorporate specific activities to get better at it. To start practicing consider doing some of the following:
- Prepare a menu each week of healthy and nourishing meals that you enjoy.
- Grocery shop for the foods on your menu and as you shop, consider where your foods came from, expressing thoughts of gratitude for the food you are purchasing.
- When eating, chew slowly and deliberately, taking the time to notice the different flavors and textures that you are experiencing.
- Avoid distractions during mealtime. Choose to focus on the experience of eating and take in all of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations you notice.
- Notice when you have a non-hunger trigger to eat and choose to do something else or drink a glass of water.
- Notice when you are experiencing hunger signals and eat only until feeling full.
- If you’re eating a treat, enjoy the experience and express gratitude for the flexibility to eat foods that you enjoy.
Practicing lifelong, mindful eating can help you to enjoy food more and have a more balanced diet. If you or your clients have concerns about unhealthy eating behaviors or an eating disorder, reach out to a registered dietitian or mental health professional to figure out the best solution for you.