What is Mindful Eating?
It seems that the phrase, “mindful eating” is popping up everywhere these days. Though it may seem like some new fad, mindfulness is an ancient concept that has been proven to be beneficial for many modern challenges, including eating issues.
At its simplest, mindfulness is awareness of the present moment. Instead of just telling you about it, experience mindfulness for yourself right now. Stop reading for a moment and pay attention to your body in your seat right now. Simply notice how it feels. What are you aware of? If you notice that you’re uncomfortable, what could you change to feel more comfortable? Could you shift positions? Get a drink? Grab a blanket?
You may be thinking, Huh? That sounds too simple! All I have to do is pay attention? Besides, how can being more aware help me?
Focusing on the information available to you right now allows you to make appropriate self-care decisions—like shifting in your seat. Admittedly it isn’t always this easy. Paying attention requires practice because many people have learned to disconnect and ignore what they’re experiencing right now. It’s common to “check out” rather than notice physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions. You may habitually distract yourself with TV, work, food—even your own thoughts. You may be preoccupied with memories of the past (I should have…) or fantasies about the future (What if…), or unconsciously responding to triggers you learned years earlier. The tendency to overlook and even distrust your present experience forces you to replay past habits and act out your fears about the future, rather than use the most current information to make decisions.
Eating with Intention and Attention
My favorite definition of mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Consider how much of an impact these simple yet powerful concepts can have on the choices you make:
Eat with intention. Be purposeful when you eat.
- Eat when you’re truly hungry.
- Eat to meet your body’s needs by choosing food that is nourishing and satisfying.
- Eat with the goal of feeling better when you’re finished than you did when you started.
Eat with attention. Devote your full attention to eating.
- Eliminate or minimize distractions.
- Tune into the ambiance, flavors, smells, temperature, and texture of the food.
- Listen to your body’s cues of hunger and fullness.
What if you could learn to use mindful eating to resolve some of your most troublesome eating challenges? Many people have! When you eat with the intention of caring for yourself, you’ll feel content, not deprived. When you pay attention, you’ll enjoy eating more while eating less.
Mindful eating isn’t a whole new set of rules to follow. Instead, mindfulness helps you tap into your “inner expert.” You’ll learn how to become more aware of your body, your thoughts, and your feelings and take the right action at the right time. As you develop your mindful eating skills, you’ll likely discover that intention and attention are valuable in other aspects of your life too!
Do you eat with intention and attention?
Michelle May, M.D. is the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshops and Facilitator Training Program that helps individuals learn to break free from mindless and emotional eating. She is the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. (Download chapter one free.)
The side effects of allergy medications keep some people from using them. Natural remedies can be a great alternative, but some are more effective than others.