14 Ways To Eat More Mindfully

These mindful eating tips can help you create a better relationship with food.

Mindful eating involves paying attention to the complete eating experience, including what’s happening inside your body, mind, and the world around you.  

By learning to eat mindfully, you’ll become aware of how different foods impact your body, mind, and well-being. To get started with mindful eating, check out these 14 mindful eating strategies.

1. Mindfully Imagine Your Future Self

When we imagine things, the brain attempts to simulate the responses that would occur if these situations truly happened. Therefore, playing out future scenarios in our minds can help us feel more like this future is real and possible. We can apply this strategy to our food life by imagining how our future selves will feel once we eat mindfully and have a healthier relationship with food.

2. Reflect on Your Reasons for Mindful Eating

If you decide to pursue a mindful eating practice, reflect on why you’re doing it. Are you doing it because you want to truly understand what your body needs, explore what nourishes you, and make changes that fundamentally change your relationship with food?

If so, then your goals are aligned with the powerful benefits of mindful eating, and you’re likely to be more successful using this strategy.

3. Remove Addictive Foods to Better Hear the Body’s Voice

Sometimes our food addictions—especially to sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, but sometimes also to dairy, carbs, and chocolate—scream louder than our hunger, nutrient deficiencies, and food intolerances. So when we try to eat mindfully, we simply hear—bread, crackers, biscuits, crisps! 

When our addictions are constantly screaming, it’s all we can hear. That’s why to get the full benefit of mindful eating—and possibly any benefit at all—we first need to remove addictive foods, for example, with guidelines like PREKURE.

4. Try Food-Focused Mindful Meditation

To open the lines of communication with your body, doing a short, food-focused mindful meditation can be helpful. To start, sit for a few minutes in silence with your eyes closed. Next, in your mind, visualise a variety of different foods. Then pause to reflect on how that food feels in your body.

Because our imagination is so powerful, this practice can give clues about the foods your body desires and guide what foods you eat when beginning your mindful eating practice.

5. When Choosing Food, Ask Your Body What It Needs

Before eating or even cooking, ask your body what it needs. You can do this by using your senses when you are selecting food to eat.

For example, when you’re at the supermarket, take a little extra time to look at and smell each food you buy. Your body might react strongly, either positively or negatively, to the smell, sight, touch, or taste of particular foods (although I recommend you taste food only after you’ve purchased it).

6. Prepare for Each Meal by Calming the Body 

Stress makes all of our digestive processes go haywire, preventing us from being able to identify the specific foods our body wants and doesn’t want. That’s why calming the body before eating is so important.

Play relaxing music to calm the body before each meal and mellow your nervous system. The earlier you start to relax your body before eating, the better. So if you’re cooking dinner, make a habit of playing calm music while you cook. Or, if you’re picking up takeout on the way home, listen to some calming music during your commute (you may surprise yourself by how much more able you are to make a healthy choice too).

7. Pause for a Mindful Moment When Beginning Each Meal

When you sit down with your food, take a few long, deep breaths and reflect on which types of hunger you’re currently feeling:

  • Eye Hunger: Did you see food and then want to eat?
  • Nose Hunger: Did you smell food and then want to eat it?
  • Ear Hunger: Did you hear food cooking or being eaten and then want to eat?
  • Mouth Hunger: Did you taste food and then want to eat more?
  • Stomach Hunger: Did your stomach feel empty or growl and then want to eat?
  • Mind Hunger: Did you realise it was a specific time of day or that you “should” eat more of a particular kind of food and then want to eat?
  • Emotional Hunger: Did you feel sad, lonely, or anxious and then want to eat?
  • Cellular Hunger: Did you get an intuitive craving for a specific food and then want to eat it?

8. Eat Mindfully and Kind-Fully 

If you’re eating with others, keep the conversation upbeat and avoid discussing the stresses of the day, disagreements, or other social problems until you’ve finished eating (preferably while you’re digesting too). And avoid watching anything stressful, exciting, or invigorating on TV (no TV at all is best). By taking these steps, you ensure your parasympathetic nervous system can focus entirely on digestion.

9. Take a Mindful Pause After a Few Bites

Stop, and take a mindful pause after you’ve eaten a few bites of your food—enough that the food has reached your stomach and the digestive process has begun.

During this mindful pause, listen to your body to see if you can experience how it’s receiving the food. Pay attention to things like tummy rumbling, sweating, tiredness, nasal congestion, tingling, goosebumps, or other bodily sensations.

10. Be Mindful About Each Bite

To stay mindful as you eat, ask yourself questions to experience the meal more fully. For example, ask yourself: Is it warm or cold? Is it savoury or salty? Is it crunchy or soft?

Explore even further by seeing if you can identify the exact flavours. Ask yourself: What herbs or spices are in this food? Can you tell if the food has any added sugar or salt? Are there other ingredients you can identify?

Next, explore the food emotionally. Does eating this food evoke any emotions? If so, dig a little deeper and see if you can figure out why.

11. Take a Mindful Pause Sometime Mid-Meal

About halfway through your meal, pause and reflect. Ask yourself the following questions: How is your body feeling now? Are you feeling nourished? Are you feeling full? Keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers.

12. Reflect Mindfully at the End of Your Meal

Once you stop eating, whether mid-meal when your plate is empty or after you’ve eaten several helpings and desserts (no judgment!), take a moment to reflect on the entire eating experience. Start by asking yourself out loud or in your head if each of the eight types of hunger (Eye, nose, ear, mouth, stomach, mind, emotional, and cellular) have been satisfied.

13. Be Present With Mindless Eating Habits

Emotional hunger, in particular, can be difficult to satisfy with any food. As a result, emotional need often leads us to continue eating mindlessly, hoping to stop our sadness, anxiety, or shame.

But once we identify a mindless eating pattern like this, we can work through it with mindfulness. Pause and stay present with your experience, even if it’s uncomfortable. Don’t push the feelings away. Just be with them for as long as it takes to dissipate on their own.

14. Mindfully Explore Cellular Hunger and Micronutrients

Our cells may cry out for essential nutrients (such as Iron, Iodine, Vitamin D, B-12, Calcium, Vitamin A, and Magnesium). Still, when we continue to eat the same foods we would typically eat, nothing changes in our bodies, so we might not get the message.

To mindfully explore cellular hunger, try eating many new or different foods. If that food nourishes your cells and body, you may feel your body scream, “Yes! More of that! Thank you!”

Other times, you may notice delayed changes in your body—for example, maybe you no longer experience an afternoon slump or evening headaches. But, again, try to notice the effects, even if they are subtle.

In Summary:

To eat mindfully requires some effort—namely, a willingness to be aware, open, and accepting. But with this new skill, you can better identify what nourishes your mind, body, and soul.

Sharon Tomkins

Sharon is a New Zealand qualified Health Coach and Personal Trainer, as well as an ICF Certified Coach and Accredited Coaching Supervisor. Sharon was awarded the 'Health & Wellness Coach of the Year' 2022, by The Health Coaches Australia & New Zealand Association.
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