Mindful Eating

By: Lilli Rozanski MS, RDN, LDN, Sports and Fitness Dietitian, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center

As we start the New Year, many resolutions involve changing current eating habits. Changing these habits and your relationship with food is not easy, but implementing a mindful eating style has tangible benefits, including a healthier relationship with food and less overeating.

Mindless eating is when eating occurs without thinking about the meal or snack being enjoyed. People’s eating habits tend to be more mindless than mindful. Mindless eating—chowing down on your dinner while simultaneously scrolling Instagram on your phone, reading emails on your computer, and half-listening to the television in the background—makes it easier to ignore the cues in your body which tell you you’re full. Because of this, being more mindful may help you eat smarter.

Mindfulness is the practice of deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally, while being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment. Mindful eating is a practice of awareness that tunes you into your hunger. When you pay attention to the external and internal hunger cues, you are better able to recognize when you are full while eating. Mindful eating is being present in the moment with an awareness of both your surroundings and the food you eat. It incorporates paying close attention to all of your senses.

The key to changing habits is experimenting to find what works for you. Try these mindful eating tips to help get you started.

  • Use the Hunger Scale
    • The hunger scale is a way of rating hunger and fullness. A “1” indicates you are starving, while a “10” means you are stuffed. The key to the hunger scale is to start eating before you are starving, and to stop before you’re uncomfortably full. Try to start eating before you are ravenous (3 or 4) and after eating you should feel satisfied (5 or 6).
  • Sit Down When Eating
    • Sit at a table, desk or nearest chair and begin to eat.
  • Slow Down
    • Put your utensils down between bites.
    • Focus on the food in your mouth rather than the food you are planning to eat next.
    • Alternate eating with your non-dominant hand
    • Periodically pause during your meal to notice how hungry you still are and what you are thinking about.
  • Bring all your senses to the table
    • Smell your food. What do you notice? Does it smell stale? Fresh? Can you identify some ingredients from the aroma?
    • Observe its texture. With every mouthful, note your food’s texture and try to put a word to it. Imagine you’re a food critic who is going to write about this meal and decide on the most fitting words.
    • Savor the flavors. Imagine that you didn’t see what you put in your mouth. Can you identify it? Can you, for example, tell the difference between chicken and fish? Is it the flavor or is it the texture that you recognize?
  • Step away from the screens.
    • Make it a policy to ditch screens when you are eating.

Remember this is a practice and it takes time and repetition to eat mindfully. Sometimes it is not something we can do every time we eat. We might not have time or are in a situation where we cannot eat foods we really enjoy. That is okay. Try to find what works for you from these tips and incorporate them into your usual eating.