Lauren Fowler, RDN

Mindfulness is a practice that brings awareness to our daily moments and helps us be present. It also focuses on accepting our feelings, thoughts, and actions just as they are. If you have struggled with disordered eating like restricting, binging, overeating, or just an obsession with food or healthy eating, being mindful can be an important practice.

Disordered eating brings awareness out of the present and into the future or past. Instead of focusing on what our body needs right now, we try to control our eating, so we can be thinner in the future. We choose food to cope with stress or our feelings instead of actually experiencing our feelings.

Mindful eating brings this focus back to the present, and with time, you can learn to listen to your body’s cues for hunger, fullness, and what it needs. You can learn what foods give your body energy and your mind clarity, as well as the foods that give you stomachaches, brain fog, or cause other symptoms. With that information, you can listen to your body and feed it nourishing food, and you don’t have to restrict foods because they are “bad.”

Mindful eating has been used in the treatment of eating disorders, especially binge eating. Using a program called Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) has been shown to reduce amounts of binges, as well as improve depression.

Mindful Meals

Research shows we make >600 decisions each day, and many of these are related to food. If we are worried about our bodies or use food to cope with stress, food can take over our lives. We think and obsess about what we should eat, foods to avoid, and how guilty we feel for eating certain foods.

With time and practice, you can begin to let go of this guilt. You can eat food for energy, as well as pleasure. You can allow all foods into your diet while understanding what foods make you feel energized and those that give you negative symptoms.

Here are 5 ways to add mindfulness to your meal:

  1. Offer gratitude before your meal. Offering gratitude to the world for your food, those who prepared it, and those who grew it is a way to show appreciation. You can be thankful to yourself for giving your body nourishment, as well. This can be a simple prayer or a phrase of thanks out loud or in your head. Just think of something about the meal or your day that you are grateful for.
  2. Sit down to eat. If you struggle with overeating, you may find yourself eating in the pantry, or with the fridge door wide open. Putting your meal or snack on a plate, and sitting down at a table to eat stops the mindless eating. It takes time to make a meal, or even put your snack on a plate or bowl. It also allows you to be present and focus on eating rather than standing up and eating mindlessly.
  3. Remove distractions. Distractions like the computer, TV, or our smartphones can cause us to eat quickly and don’t allow us to fully enjoy the meal. When we are distracted, our bodies can be in a state of stress, and digestion doesn’t work as well. You may not notice all the different textures and flavors of your meal, either. Eating at a table without distractions can be a whole new experience for you, so try it out for a few meals a week.
  4. Chew your food. Slowing down and chewing your food will not only improve digestion, but it will allow you to fully taste and experience your meal. Pay attention to the textures, flavors, odors, and appearance of the food. Notice something new about food, or how you are eating.
  5. Remember, it’s just food! Food is nourishment for our body and mind, and it can add pleasure to our lives. A little bit of dark chocolate is one of the best things I eat every day! When you are obsessed with food, food can make you feel guilty, upset, or emotional. That’s okay. Let yourself feel this, but remind yourself, it’s just food! The food itself cannot fix your problems, or relieve your stress. You may need to do deep emotional work with a therapist or other mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga to work through these emotions.

I hope you try out these 5 practices and give mindful eating a try! Remember, you are amazing, and you deserve to love yourself and your body.