The applications of mindfulness in day-to-day life are truly endless. More than a technique for reducing stress, mindfulness is an all-encompassing perspective on living in each moment and accepting life as it comes.

Put simply; mindfulness is “…a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment.” (1) One’s experience includes all the senses as well as the emotions and thoughts that accompany our reaction to what is occurring.

This idea of mindfulness is highly relevant to the experience of eating. We eat multiple times a day. What and how we eat impacts many other areas of our health and wellness. In addition, what and how we eat has a significant influence on the world around us.

Eating mindfully allows us to use that influence for the better.

There are several aspects to eating mindfully

The Two Aspects of Mindful Eating

Eating mindfulness has two main components. The first is the impact on our health from being focused and present at meals. Eating mindfully invites us to slow down and enjoy the taste, texture, smells, and pleasure of each bite. Eating more slowly also allows the body’s signals of fullness to reach us before we overindulge. (2)

Eating quickly is associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese (3). In contrast, slow, mindful eating has been shown to build better eating habits and contribute to healthy weight management. (4) Our relationship with food and our enjoyment increases when we eat mindfully.

The second component of mindful eating is awareness of how our food choices impact those around us. Choosing healthy foods is only the beginning. Mindfulness also asks us to seek out foods that are raised and harvested ethically and in a way that is sustainable for the health of the planet.

There is more than one way to eat mindlessly, and true mindfulness addresses all aspects of what and how we eat.

Putting It into Practice

Many practices contribute to a state of mindfulness while eating. These are just a few strategies to get started.

  • Mindful eating begins with the food you purchase. Start shopping mindfully. Prepare a list in advance of the foods you need and resist impulse purchases of foods that may reinforce poor eating habits.
  • Choose healthy foods and, when possible, ethically raised or grown foods. This piece can be tricky as there is often no information about where your food came from. Shopping at the farmer’s market is a great way to bring mindfulness to your purchases. In the end, remember mindfulness cultivates non-judgment, so don’t beat yourself up if you cannot find or afford food you are confident is sustainable.
  • Before you eat, explore your emotional and physical state. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry or if there is something else you need instead, such as to release stress or move your body. Eating is a common way to cope with feelings of anxiety, depression, or fatigue. It is essential to mindfully pause and notice what you are feeling in the moment.
  • When you sit down to a meal, put away all other distractions. Avoid looking at your phone or watching TV. These are activities that prevent focusing on your food.
  • Go slow. Ideally, a healthy pace of eating allows your meal to last a half-hour.
  • Put your fork down between bites to help slow your pace.
  • Take time to smell and really taste your food. Savor each bite.
  • As you eat, cultivate gratitude towards those who grew and harvested your food. Be mindful of the whole life cycle that brings a meal to your plate.

Check in with your emotions and feelings of hunger or fullness. If you eat at a mindful pace, there is time to observe when you are satiated and choose to finish your meal with appreciation.

Learn how to put mindful eating to practice. Good nutrition makes a big difference.

We Are How We Eat

The type of food we put in our bodies is a major factor in overall health. But how we eat also has a role to play. When we eat with awareness and intention, we enhance wellness. When we cultivate non-judgment, we allow our relationship with food to be one of pleasure and not guilt.

Mindfulness has benefits for every aspect of our lives. When we bring our mindful attention to each meal, we set the table for improved health and well-being and more joy with every bite.