What is mindful eating?

A mindful approach to eating is something that can be learned and can be an invaluable tool for transforming someone’s relationship with food for the better…

The word mindfulness is now well known, and in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s words, it can essentially be summarised as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgementally”.

So what does this mean in relation to eating? Eating is one of the most basic and fundamental things that people do, hopefully both out of necessity and enjoyment. However nowadays, whether someone has an eating disorder or not, it can be very easy to eat in automatic pilot mode, be it due to lack of time, stress, unhealthy dieting or simply the fact that food is generally abundant and available all around us most of the time.

Eating mindfully means eating with purpose and presence, with intention and attention. The purpose/intention of doing something good and enjoyable for yourself, and the presence/attention to be aware of how your body and mind are experiencing it. But this process starts even before you sit down in front of your plate. It starts with being aware of why you want to eat.

Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgementally.JON KABAT-ZINN

Some of the questions that can support mindfulness while eating include:

  • Am I eating because I am hungry? Because “it’s lunch time”? Because there is an uncomfortable emotion that I am trying to avoid? Because it is a nice way to enjoy sharing time with someone?

Then once you are in front of your food, you can start experiencing it with attention through your senses:

  • What aroma does it have? What colours and shapes do I see? What flavours am I experiencing on the tongue? How does the texture feel in my mouth? What other physical sensations am I noticing?

And while you are experiencing this physical aspect of the food, ask yourself:

  • What am I thinking? Am I emotionally engaging with what I am thinking, or am I observing the thoughts in an objective, non judgemental manner?

Learning to eat mindfully can take some practice but reaps rewards. It is a powerful way of getting back in touch with your physical and emotional food cues, becoming more aware of how you feel about food, reminding yourself of what foods you do like and don’t like, making food choices from a healthy place either because you want to nourish yourself or because you just want to really enjoy that piece of chocolate cake to the full.

What’s next?

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