This is the first article of a five-part series on mindful eating.
Throughout this series, you’ll learn what mindfulness is, what mindful eating is, the characteristics of mindful eating, an overview of its benefits, the challenges and obstacles and tips for successful mindful eating for life. In some of the articles, we’ll dive deeper into mindful eating practices that have the biggest emotional, physical and mental pay-offs.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is the art of becoming more present and purposeful when you eat, allowing yourself to truly enjoy your food. It’s conscious decision-making that intentionally affects how, where, why and when you eat. Mindful eating allows you to more accurately gauge your true hunger and to choose foods that make you feel more alive and healthy. Mindful eating allows you to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions while you eat and also in between meals.
With mindful eating, you notice things you otherwise wouldn’t if you race through the eating experience, eating breakfast on your commute, gobbling down a salad at your desk, eating a protein bar while driving or shoving pasta into your mouth while you watch television.
Mindful eating, sometimes called intuitive eating, is not a new idea. It is, however, kind of radical to many Americans, as the current American culture of being overly busy, working multiple jobs, traveling and having kids makes it tempting to speed through meals.
What is Mindfulness?
General mindfulness is paying deliberate attention non-judgmentally, in the present moment, to your inner world and the physical environment outside of you. Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations in the present moment. It allows you to feel balance and self-acceptance and like you have your power back.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
1. Mindful eating allows you to acknowledge and understand your body’s responses to food.
When you pay attention to how your body feels as you’re eating, it’s easier to know which foods help you feel healthier, more energetic and in a better mood. Some people feel better with a vegan diet. Some people feel better eating low-carb. Some people feel better eating meat and others feel fantastic with plant-based protein.
Rather than following the latest diet trends and research, you can use mindful eating to find the right foods and/or diet for you at any time in your life.
2. Mindful eating allows you to know if you’re really hungry.
We eat for many reasons. Sometimes, we just want to eat regardless of real hunger. Boredom, distraction, someone else eating, emotional eating and stress eating — these are all other reasons. Mindful eating allows you to pause before you eat. You’ll be able to pinpoint what’s making you want to eat. Then you can decide if you’re truly hungry.
3. Mindful eating prevents overeating.
Not every time, but most times. Remember that mindful eating allows you to become hyper-aware of how hungry you really are and how full you really are. That pays off. Knowing when to stop eating can take you from “lethargic and stuffed” to “I feel good enough to still move around.”
If you become mindful at most meals, you can prevent those last few bites from going down. Those last few bites add up to hundreds or thousands of calories every week.
4. Mindful eating allows you to truly enjoy and appreciate your food.
Find more pleasure in your food experience. Do you have any idea what a lovely indulgence it is to regularly sit at a clean table with your plate of food and nothing else? When you split your attention, you split your pleasure. When you’re totally present at a meal, you’ll feel more satisfied and less likely to want something else to eat 45 minutes later.
5. Mindful eating allows you to let go of the diet mentality and create a healthier relationship with food, eating and your body.
Mindful eating is a key component to heal your relationship with food and your body. When you’re able to intentionally choose nutrient-rich foods, feel non-judgmental about it, eat something that tastes good and healthy and find pleasure in the entire experience, then you are creating the inner peace, power and balance that you really crave.
Make sure to read the next articles in the mindful eating series. You can overcome any challenges and become successful at mindful eating. Remember, only you are responsible for your wellness. It’s totally possible to create a healthy relationship with your body, food and eating, from wherever you are right now.
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Erin Dubich is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist living in south Chicagoland. She has lost nearly 80 pounds and kept it off since 2013. She helps people to increase their energy and create a healthy relationship with food and their body through self-compassion and mindful eating. Erin is a professional speaker (since 2010), educating and inspiring people on topics specific to nutrition, wellness, and self-love. Erin has degrees in neuroscience, psychology, and dietetics, and a Masters in nutrition communication from Tufts University. Her grounded and joyful approach to life is refreshing and invigorating. You can find her beautiful and wise writing at www.erindubichnutrition.com. You can follow her on Facebook.