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Mindfulness and Mindful Eating – What it is and How to Practice It

woman eating cake

The concept of mindfulness was introduced in the 1970s and originated from the eastern practices of Buddhism and Hinduism. It refers to being in the present, being in tune with your mind and body in a non-judgmental way and observing how your choices impact your health.

Research has shown that practicing mindfulness has a number of benefits including being more aware of your emotions, thoughts and actions; improved concentration and focus; reduced stress levels; increased compassion towards self and others; increased ability to make choices that support overall health and reducing blood pressure.

woman eating cake

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating refers to giving our full attention to all our food choices, engaging our senses, and observing our eating in a non-judgmental way, including our thoughts and physical experiences. Put simply, mindful eating is not about dieting, but about the way we eat.

Mindful eating is a learned skill that can be used as a tool to improve one’s relationship with food, improve eating behaviours, aid in weight loss, prevent some chronic diseases and assist with gut symptoms including bloating and indigestion.

What does it involve?

  • Eating regularly in small or moderate amounts.
  • Taking small bites and chewing slowly – aim for an applesauce consistency before swallowing.
  • Eating without distraction (on the run, TV, phone etc.).
  • Distinguishing between emotional and physical hunger.
  • Eating until you are satisfied, and not overfull.
  • Engaging in the colour, aroma, texture, and flavour of the food.
  • Being aware of the effects of the food on your body.
  • Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety around food.

How do I practice it?

Question 1) Ask yourself “Am I hungry?” On a scale of 1 (empty) to 10 (stuffed), where do I fall in this present moment?

Aim to eat when you are between the scale of 3 to 4 and stop eating when you reach scale 6 to 7. Avoid waiting until you reach the stage of being very hungry, because at this stage we often tend to overeat and go for more calorie dense, convenient foods. It is also recommended to stop eating when we reach between 6 to 7 on the hunger-fullness scale, because it can take up to 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full.
Hunger Level Scale

Question 2) If I am not hungry, then why do I want to eat?

Is it because I am bored, stressed, angry, sad, annoyed, lonely, seeking comfort, distracted, or looking for a reward? Is it because of a habit or is it because it is convenient / available?

Is there a non-food related activity I can do instead of turning to food? For example, going for a walk, listening to music, calling a friend, having a warm bath / shower, reading a book, journaling, painting or any other hobby you enjoy.

Question 3) If I am hungry, what do I feel like eating?

What are your options? What is going to nourish your body?

Choose nutrient dense foods, that are high in protein and/or fibre to give you the feeling of fullness after your meal /snack. Some examples include:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetable sticks with a dip (hummus, cottage cheese)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • High protein yoghurt
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • High fibre natural muesli bars
  • Boiled egg
  • Whole grains crackers with a dip

Question 4) How much do I need?

Try starting with a small amount and reassess how you feel. Every few minutes check in with your hunger and fullness levels. Know that you can always have more later if you need to.

Start by trying to be more mindful with one meal per day and slowly incorporating these habits into more meal and snack times.

If you would like some assistance in this area, please contact our Dietitian on 1300 800 993.

We are continuing to provide all services with additional precautions in place to safeguard the health and well-being of our clients, staff and the community. We are pleased to offer appointments with our Counselling team, Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist either face-to-face (wearing appropriate face masks), or via telehealth with secure video and phone consultations available. Remedial Massage therapy is able to continue under our COVID Safe Management Plan. To make an appointment please call us on 1300 800 993, send us a message, or book online.