What is mindful eating?
Slowing down when you eat and chewing your food thoroughly. That’s mindful eating, right?
Mindful eating has its roots in the more traditional mindfulness philosophies. Essentially it is the application of mindfulness to our interactions with food and the act of eating.
So, if we consider Jon Kabat-Zinn’s classic definition of mindfulness; “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” and bring it to the act of eating, we can think of mindful eating as:
- Engaging all of your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) when it comes to choosing and eating food, so that eating is both satisfying and nourishing to your body
- Bringing awareness to your internal physical signals of hunger and fullness to guide when you start and stop eating
- Acknowledging our experience with food and eating without judgement
- Bringing awareness to the positive and nurturing opportunities of food preparation and consumption that have been guided by your inner wisdom
Why eat mindfully?
We live in a culture that constantly bombards us with new, and let’s face it, confusing, rules about food. We are told that food is something that should be tightly controlled and eating in excess is bad thing. And consequently, we internalise that as a reflection on our character and worth as a person. For example, eating in excess = I am a glutton, I have no willpower, I’m out of control and addicted to food…the list goes on.
Mindful eating helps to tune out all of that external noise and chaos and bring you home to your body.
It helps you to trust that your body has the wisdom within it to guide your food choices and to eat in tune with your appetite – there are no meal plans, calorie counting, or app tracking required!
Mindful eating can go a long way to helping you resolve all of that chatter and anxiety in your mind about whether you are doing the ‘right thing’ or being a good person when it comes to eating.
And it can bring about calm and enjoyment to the act of eating again. After all, nourishing our body with food is biologically designed to be pleasurable – we can thank our caveman ancestors for passing that critical piece of DNA onto us to make sure we survive as a species!
How can I start eating mindfully?
If you have seen tips and tricks for eating mindfully that tell you to chew each bite 35 times, put your knife and fork down between each bite, only eat until you are 80% full etc. I want you to throw them all out of the window right now.
Because those ‘tips’ are just giving you a whole new set of food rules to abide by; you are just applying them to mindful eating now! With mindful eating, we are trying to move away from rules. Rules are only going to turn mindful eating into another diet and thing for us to feel bad about if we can’t get it right.
Spoiler alert: you can’t get mindful eating right or wrong – so long as you are giving it a go.
You may want to start with something as simple as tending to your herb garden or prioritising 15 minutes to sitting down and enjoying your meal. Or asking yourself the question “Am I hungry?” and “What do I feel like eating?”. If you are having trouble answering those questions, working with a dietitian trained in the non-diet approach and intuitive eating can help.
Remember, the idea behind mindful eating is to eat without judgement. So be kind to yourself as you dip your toes in and have fun exploring!
We’re really pleased to have Nina Mills write this guest blog post for us. Nina is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor. She holds a Master of Dietetics, Master of Human Nutrition, Graduate Certificate in Health Promotion and Bachelor of Health Sciences. With a keen interest in a client-centred approach to nutrition and dietetics she has gone on to do extensive additional training in the Non-Diet Approach, Health At Every Size, Intuitive Eating and the areas of body image, Binge Eating Disorder and eating competence.
Nina is a member of the Association for Size Diversity and Health and is a Health At Every Size Australia specialist. In her practice, she offers virtual and in person nutrition counselling and online programs for clients with eating and body concerns using the principles of Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size to help them reconnect with their bodies, make food choices from a place of self-care and ultimately feel good eating.
When she is not dismantling diet culture, Nina can be found catching some live music, annoying her ageing cats that just want to sleep, or exploring the history of her hometown Melbourne.
The image in this blog is by Mc Jefferson Agloro via mcjeffersonagloro.com