What is Mindful Eating? And Why is it Important?
Have you heard about mindful eating? It s a popular concept right now. Mindful eating is being aware and in the moment when you are eating. When you eat mindfully, you take time to dedicate to eating.
You give up on counting calories and macros. You focus on what is most important.
You think, instead, about the way your food looks, tastes, and smells.
You will see mindful eating activities promoting weight loss. But the truth is, your body will be at the weight it wants to be. You can read more about that in my blog post Reclaim Your Wellness Journey. That’s why I created this mindful eating checklist that focuses on food enjoyment and not weight loss.
However, mindful eating shouldn’t be used for weight loss but as a tool to relearn how to trust your body to make food choices. As you’ve gotten older and diet culture has crept in you lost the connection with your body that helps make food decisions.
Practicing mindful eating can help you regain that trust in your body. It can also increase your pleasure in eating and help you create more positive food connections. Ultimately, mindful eating is a mind-body approach to food that everyone should be using.
Ultimate Mindful Eating Checklist
Mindful eating starts before you begin eating.
- Think about what you want for your meal. Take a few moments to check in with yourself.
- What is your body telling you that it wants to eat?
- How hungry are you?
- How tired are you?
Asking yourself these questions will help you decide mindfully what your meal should be.
Let go of any judgments you may feel about your food choices. It is okay to eat foods that you previously avoided. You are leaving behind restrictive diets.
Trust your body to guide you in making food choices that will satisfy and nourish you.
- Be present in the moment when you are preparing your food.
Appreciate the effort that you are making in creating a meal for yourself.
Thank yourself for doing such a great thing for you. It may sound silly but feeling grateful has been shown to lower stress and anxiety.
If someone else prepares a meal for you, think about the effort and care that they put into that meal. Take a moment to feel appreciative. It doesn’t matter if this is a family member preparing your food or a restaurant worker. There was a lot of care put into your meal or snack.
Prepare your environment for mindful eating.
Your environment is important. If your environment is set up to help you eat mindfully, it will be easier for you. So, set it up so that it helps you meet your goals. The checklist below can help.
- Make eating an event. Get a little fancy with it. Time was taken to prepare your food with care. Eat it with care, thought, and dedication.
- Set a place for eating. This can be at a dinner table, coffee table, or even the couch. Do you have nicer dishes that you only use sometimes? Use them! Do you have unscented candles? Light them. Make eating feel like an event.
- Turn on the lights so you can actually see your food. Seeing your food is such an important part of mindful eating. If you can’t see your food well, you miss out on those visual cues that help us feel pleasure in eating.
- Turn off the TV. This can be a hard one for people.
If you are like me, you usually have the TV on for background noise all the time. But this can be distracting and prevent us from eating mindfully.
If you find it hard to go through your whole meal with the TV off, that is okay.
Try eating without the TV on for 2-3 minutes. Next time, try for a little longer. Soon you may find that you are eating your whole meal without the TV on. Turning off the TV helps us feel more pleasure in eating. When we watch TV and eat, our bodies and our brains don’t feel as happy with our meals.
- Put down your phone. Also, a hard one. You may have a habit of checking your phone all of the time.
But you are practicing mindful eating so put the phone down. This should prevent you from reaching over easily and checking social media or an email from our boss. If other people are eating with you, encourage them to set their phones aside also.
Now we are ready to eat!
Now that you have been mindful about your meal preparation and setting your environment, we can get ready to eat!
- Visually admire your food. There is a reason that the saying “we eat with our eyes first” exists. Take a look at your food. Really look at it. Check out the colors and the way the colors of the food play off the color of the plate. Notice the different sizes and textures of your meal. Does it look appealing? Is your mouth watering?
- How does your food smell? Can you smell individual foods? Does it smell good? Are you reminded of comforting childhood memories? Or are the food smells new and exciting? Put a bite on your fork. Notice how it smells as you get ready to eat. Notice how it looks.
- Put the bite in your mouth. Taste it.
- Does it taste sweet, spicy, or salty? Is it delicious?
- Now chew. How does the texture feel in your mouth? Does it feel crunchy, soft, or chewy? Do you like the texture?
- What about temperature? Is it cold, hot, or lukewarm? Do you enjoy the temperature of the food?
- How do your mouth and tongue feel? Is your food fatty? Does it coat your mouth with an oily layer? Is it astringent like a raw cucumber?
- Now swallow your food and take another bite. How does the food feel as you swallow it? What sensations do you feel?
- Check-in with yourself. During your meal and after you you eat, take a moment to check in with yourself like you did when you were planning your meal.
- Do you feel satisfied?
- Are you still hungry?
Checking in with yourself can give you a good idea of how you can make changes next time.
If you are still hungry, have more food! Feeling comfortably full and satisfied? This is a good sign to stop eating so you don’t get uncomfortably full.
- Remember this is not a way to diet or attempt weight loss. This is a way to eat to make food more pleasurable and help us feel more present in the moment that we are eating.
That is a lot of information. I hear you. I did promise you an ultimate mindful eating checklist, after all!
But you may be wondering…
Which Mindful Eating Activity Should I Start With?
I can totally see how it could be overwhelming. Where should you start if you feeling overwhelmed?
Start where ever you want! With any habit change, it is often easiest to start with the step that you can see yourself incorporating with the least amount of work.
Well, if you can master one step, it gives you the confidence to move on to the next step. If turning off the TV seems like a huge step for you, maybe start with moving your phone farther away during meals.
When you are starting mindful eating, you can break it into steps. All-or-nothing approaches rarely work for people.
In fact, it is 100% okay to work on one step from the mindful eating checklist this week and move on to the next step when you are feeling confident.
Want a printable checklist? Download my mindful eating checklist bonus pdf and start reconnecting with the joy of food today.
Let’s Practice Some Mini Mindful Eating Activities
You can start with a little practice session.
Take a small piece of chocolate.
Look at it.
Feel it in your fingers.
Smell the chocolate.
What do you notice? Is the chocolate glossy? Is it starting to melt? Does it smell sweet? Has your mouth started to water?
Put the chocolate in your mouth.
Without chewing, notice how it feels in your mouth. Is it starting to melt? How does it taste? Is it bitter? Is it sweet? Does the chocolate coat your mouth? Also, notice how it feels when you swallow?
Think about how this exercise felt.
Did it feel awkward? Were you able to find something positive in the exercise?
Did you find it useful? Did you notice any feelings of judgment?
Is it something that you want to try again? It is okay if it didn’t feel natural. That will come with time. Just keep practicing.
Don’t like chocolate? You can try this with any food. Here are other mindful eating activities from the Greater Good Science Center.
It is About Trusting Yourself Not Weight-Loss
Remember, when you try these mindful eating activities, it is not about weight loss. Some people would have you believe it is, but it isn’t.
Remember from our post about reclaiming your wellness journey. Your weight is not easy to change.
Use this mindful eating checklist to practice eating without judgment, eating for pleasure, and relearning how to trust your body when it comes to meals.
Not sure how to implement this on your own. Reach out. If you are in North Carolina, schedule your free clarity call here to find out how I can help.