Beginner’s Guide to Mindful Eating

In our fast-paced world eating often becomes a mindless act. Discover how mindful eating helps you take back your power and build a healthy and satisfying relationship with food.
Beginner's Guide to Mindful Eating

Do you know why you’re eating?

Whether you just ate, are planning to eat soon, or are eating right now, you surely know the reason, don’t you?

Your answer might be as simple as, “Because I’m hungry!”

But are you?

The point here is to think about not only what you’re eating, but why. 

Applying mindfulness to your eating–aka, eating mindfully—could be the key to a better relationship and more enjoyment from your food.

What Is Mindful Eating?

No, it’s not just about taking time to chew your food thoroughly (though, that is part of it).

With roots in Buddhism, mindfulness is the practice of choosing to focus your attention on the present moment, acknowledging your thoughts and feelings—both physical and emotional—before accepting them and letting them go.

The practice of mindful eating shifts the main principles of mindfulness into the world of food, allowing you to focus on the experience of food consumption and all of the thoughts, sensations, and feelings that come with it.

What’s the point, you ask?

In short, mindful eating is all about changing your relationship with food.

Health Benefits of Mindful Eating

Before we dive into how to eat mindfully, let’s explore some of the benefits of mindful eating.

Mindful eating may help:

If you learn to be mindful of your food, you allow yourself to build a peaceful relationship with your meals, kicking guilt to the curb…where it belongs.

Ready to stop feeling guilty and genuinely enjoy your food again—or maybe for the first time?

Mindful Eating Starts Now: Here’s How

Are you ready to find a heightened sense of self-awareness and develop a loving relationship with food?

Let’s get started:

Step 1: Are You Truly Hungry?

Before you open your mouth to take the first bite, it’s essential to determine your hunger level—or if you’re even hungry at all.

Our minds exert incredible power over our behavior and often when default to feeding ourselves when the reason we feel hungry can be attributed to something else entirely.

Here’s a quick self-assessment of your current hunger situation:

  • Do I physically feel hungry?
  • Am I thirsty (a common condition that can mimic hunger)?
  • What is my current emotional state?
  • What time of day is it? (is it my regular lunchtime?)
  • Am I actually in need of nourishment, or am I falling in line with a familiar, potentially harmful pattern?

As you answer these questions, work on letting go of judgments or emotions that may come with the answers. 

Tip: If your only reason for eating is because you’re emotional or bored, embrace and honor it. 

Then, if you choose to eat anyway, you can do so without guilt (and probably eat less than you usually would). At this point, eating is a choice you’ve made. Own it.

Step 2: Minimize Distractions

This step will have a different meaning for each person.

You may only need to set your phone down. Someone else might need to put it in another room entirely. Another person may require total silence—which might not be possible if kids are running around.

Minimizing distractions helps you quickly and easily focus on the experience of eating.

Listen up: this step is the hardest to achieve and will take practice. 

Start small. 

Shoot for 3 – 5 minutes of relative quiet at each meal. If that sounds like a lot, start with 30 seconds, and build from there. 

Tip: If you have kids, invite them to join you in the process.

At the beginning of the meal, ask your kids to join you in eating in silence for a few minutes. To make things interesting, you can make it a game. Set a timer and ask them to quietly think about how the food they are eating makes them feel. 

Once the time is up, everyone can share their thoughts and emotions and participate in a bonding conversation around the table. 

Even if what they feel is that they don’t like broccoli, this can set your brood up to enjoy a healthy relationship with food as they grow.

Step 3: Slow Down

“Chew your food!”

The timeless mantra of every mom everywhere at dinnertime has been lost to many of us. We rush from task to task with increasing speed, and soon mealtime becomes just one more box we need to check off our list.

Thing is: mom was right. 

While I’m pretty sure your mom was trying to prevent you from choking, she may have also been concerned with your digestion. Eating too fast can cause bloating, gas, and heartburn, among other things. But also, eating too fast robs you of the joy that can come with eating.

When you take the time to savor the moment, you’ll start to figure out why you love the foods you do.

Plus, slowing down gives your brain enough time to register when you’ve had enough. 

Step 4: Eat With Your Eyes

And all your other senses, too.

Take a bite or two, then pause. Consider what your food feels like in your mouth. Mouthfeel is an often-overlooked factor when we consider what we enjoy about a particular food. 

What does it look like? Texture, color, smell, and even the sound it makes as you chew (which is especially satisfying if you’re eating something crunchy) all contribute to the rich experience of eating.

Do you notice any new flavors?

Maybe certain foods trigger a happy memory you’d forgotten. In the same way that smells can transport us back to another time, flavor can evoke strong emotion when tied to a powerful memory.

Take a second to consider how your food looks on the plate. 

Is the presentation aesthetically pleasing?

All of these practices help slow your mind and bring the experience of nourishing your body into the present moment. With any luck, your new mindful eating practice might open up a whole new world of food appreciation!

Why Mindful Eating

In our modern fast-paced society mealtime has become mindless for many. Too often, we scarf down our food as quickly as possible to get back to living life.

But, slowing down and practicing mindful eating can be like an oasis in the middle of the desert. You’re able to carve out a small but valuable piece of you-time before jumping back into the frantic pace of life.

Think of it as self-care—because it is.

Taking the time to eat mindfully allows you to honor yourself. It also helps you relearn bodily cues that enable you to tell the difference between emotional and physical hunger.

Uncovering your food-related triggers gives you back the power to choose how you respond.