What is mindful eating and how will it help you? Mindful eating is a conscious effort to slow down and pay attention to your food and body while eating. Mindful eating can help with weight loss and is also important for tuning in to learning your body’s signals. This approach increases your awareness of how you choose the foods and amounts of foods you eat.
Have you ever received a stressful phone call and afterward you suddenly find yourself standing at the kitchen counter munching through a bag of pretzels, and you aren’t even quite sure how you go there? Or do you snack while working at the computer, only to realize your food is gone and you barely remember tasting it? I sure have.
Mindless eating is when you unknowingly munch through food without savoring it and enjoying it. This can happen during a busy day when you grab food on the go, or when you are emotionally distracted and distant.
Mindless eating can be especially harmful if you are someone struggling to lose or maintain weight, because all those calories go in but your mind doesn’t calculate that food was enjoyed.
Without satisfaction from food, the brain will continue to tell you to eat.
Before and After Weight Loss Success with Mindful Eating
I’m currently maintaining a 100 pound weight loss and have been for the last 15+ years. Curiously, it’s really only in the last year that I’ve started to practice mindful eating and it’s made a big difference.
This last year, in addition to pre-tracking my food and following more strictly the guidelines we teach in the Faithful Finish Lines program I run together with my business partner, Becky, I decided to be intentional about eating mindfully in my own life.
Since then I’ve lost an additional 15 pounds and received my Weight Watchers Lifetime status.
I am at my goal weight after many years of yes, maintaining my 100 pound weight loss, but also being about 15-20 pounds over my goal weight.
I still follow the Weight Watchers program and I still track points (calories) which might seem like a contradiction to the mindful or intuitive eating approaches, but it’s worked well for me.
While I can maintain my weight without tracking, I find it stressful. I find that tracking gives me the guidance I need to stay within what is healthy for me.
Plus, since I’ve been tracking for so many years, it’s not stressful for me. Call me crazy but I actually think it’s kind of fun and enjoyable.
What’s different now compared to before is that I don’t automatically eat something because it’s zero points, low in calories, or already tracked.
I plan ahead what I will eat, AND I eat mindfully and stop when I am full. This one-two punch has made it so I could finally get to my goal weight after years of a plateau.
What I Changed to Eat More Mindfully
Here are some of the things I’ve done during the last year to eat more mindfully. These changes have impacted the amount of food I eat, helping me to lose weight.
- I don’t eat it just because it’s tracked, zero points, or allowed. This has been a big shift for me. As much as I appreciate the Weight Watchers system or tracking calories on apps like My Fitness Pal or Carb Master, the disadvantage is that it can put you out of touch with your body’s signals. While I still think these are super-useful tools, it can lead to a mindset of “I’ve tracked it so I get to eat it.” But any overeating is still overeating, so now I put food away when I’m full, even if there are just a few bites left.
- I eat without distractions. This was a toughie for me. I LOVE to check my phone and scroll through social media while eating. I also love to watch TV and eat or even work at the computer and eat. But I realized these habits were leading to overeating. Now, when I eat, I only eat. An affirmation I have used to work on changing this behavior is, “I am a person who only eats while eating.”
- I listen for “the sigh”. Did you know that your body has a physiologic response where you sign when you are full or almost full? I never knew this! Somewhere I came across this in my reading and discovered this is true for me! And I was shocked at how quickly the sigh comes, too. When I pay attention to it, this gives my body a wonderful cue that I’ve had enough.
How Do You Learn Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is possible for anyone to learn but only comes with intention and practice.
During the next couple of days, try using some of the mindful eating ideas below and be sure to download our free printable to guide you.
Some of our mindful eating tips might be easy for you and others might create quite an internal struggle. You have patterns around food that you enjoy and bring you comfort.
Consider this a grand experiment – rather than forcing yourself to comply, wonder about why it’s so difficult and what would happen if you decided to try it, just for one meal or snack. The goal is not to change the type or amount of food you eat.
When beginning the journey to eat more mindfully, it’s important to allow change to occur gradually. If you force yourself to make too many changes too fast, a part of your brain will rebel. (See this article for more information: When We Rebel Against Ourselves and What To Do About It.)
Most important, as a Christian I know that true, lasting change only comes by God’s grace, leading, and healing. Ask God to help you be more in tune with how He created your body to be. Pray before each meal and ask God to guide you so that you stop right at the bite where fullness sets in.
Can You Lose Weight With Mindful Eating?
Yes, a mindful eating approach can help with weight loss.
By itself, mindful eating is not a weight-loss cure, but as part of an approach or a tool it can help you with healthy eating and weight loss.
When you are conscious of what you’re putting in your body, you will choose healthier foods (most of the time – not always!) and you will eat less.
Why is Mindful Eating Is Important?
Mindful eating has many benefits because it helps you tune in to your body’s signals and eat in a more healthy way.
PsychProfessionals says this,
“Practicing a more mindful approach to eating can enhance the enjoyment of your meals, reduce overeating, aid good digestion, reduce anxious thoughts surrounding food, and improve your psychological relationship with food. It is impossible to truly enjoy eating (or food) whilst our attention is elsewhere.”
How to Practice Mindful Eating in Your Life
Here are 20 ways to eat more mindfully. Choose ONE at a time to focus on this week during your meals and snacks:
- Eat more slowly than normal.
- Take a 5-second pause between every bite.
- Put down your fork more often.
- Before each eating opportunity, ask yourself, “How hungry am I on a scale of 1-10?”
- Plate everything you eat. No eating out of bags or boxes!
- Create a beautiful table – pretty dishes, cloth napkin, and flowers.
- Sit in a new place to eat.
- Purchase a new set of plates (they need not be expensive!) just for meals and snacks you eat by yourself.
- Drink a sip of water between bites.
- Only eat sitting down.
- Pray before every meal or snack.
- Pause and notice the color, texture, and aroma of your food before you eat it.
- Acknowledge any thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come up for you as eat. Don’t try to solve anything – simply notice.
- Don’t eat while doing anything else (TV, reading, computer).
- Chew each bite of food thoroughly.
- For one meal or snack a day, eat in silence.
- Switch hands. Try eating with your opposite hand – it’s harder than you might think!
- Try eating with your fork upside down (tines pointed down instead of up).
- Pretend you are a food critic. What would you write to describe this meal?
- Carefully listen and feel for feelings of fullness. Stop when you are somewhat full and decide if you need to keep eating.
- Only eat “in the open” – choose to engage in no secret eating.
Some of these activities might be more difficult than you imagine or even a bit scary. I really had a tough time pulling myself away from eating with distractions like my phone or TV. It took intentional practice over time, but now that has become a normal way of life for me.
When you gradually incorporate these mindful eating techniques into your daily habits, you will see progress. Be gentle with yourself and look at this as an experiment rather than something harsh you need to force yourself into.
Not only will you savor and enjoy your food so much more, but you will recognize fullness which will lead to maintaining your weight (or losing weight) more easily.
Allow yourself grace as you make these healthy changes.
Grab This Printable List of How To Practice Mindful Eating
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What has helped you with mindful eating? Let us know in the comments below.
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Sara is a writer, speaker, and 100+ pound weight loss success story. Her website The Holy Mess reaches millions of readers. At Faithful Finish Lines Christian weight loss program, she helps women lose weight and grow in faith with an impressive 36,000+ completing free weight loss challenges under her guidance to date. Click here to read Sara's amazing 100 pound weight loss story. Feel free to send Sara a message here.