Oct. 1. 2021
Mindful Eating
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

You’ve likely heard about the benefits of mindful eating, but you may be wondering how to practice mindful eating. 

The mindful eating movement has recently taken the health, wellness, and nutrition realm by storm. Based on how successful our members have been after utilizing mindful eating, I’m here to say it’s for good reason, too!

If you’re looking to learn how to practice mindful eating in a realistic, sustainable way, you’re in the right place. 

Why It’s Important to Practice Mindful Eating 

When you hear mindful eating, you may picture this meaning chewing your food really slowly or meditating before you eat.

While it can look like that if you’d like, that doesn’t truly capture the essence of mindful eating.

The purpose of mindful eating is to guide you to be in tune with your body and meal experience so you can make intentional food choices based on what your body is needing, what you’re wanting, and the right amount of balance between the two. 

Mindful eating is all about putting the focus back on your experience at mealtimes. It’s a way to eat in a present, thoughtful way to promote a balanced and nourishing way of eating. 

When first hearing about mindful eating, it can sound a little frivolous. I’ve had a few new clients ask something along the lines of, “Does mindful eating actually make a difference?”. I promise it does. 

Research has shown that mindful eating can help numerous ailments related to food and nutrition. For example, it can help treat disordered eating habits and help individuals achieve weight-related goals as well (1).  

How to Practice Mindful Eating in 10 Ways  

Keep reading to learn my top 10 ways to start eating mindfully today. 

1. Eat Without Distractions

That means no phones, no TV, no computer and no working. Sounds pretty foreign, right? Distracted eating is so common nowadays. It’s a part of our culture! 

When we remove all the noise and all the hustle and bustle that’s become a part of eating, we’re really just eating. This allows you to be more present and mindful while nourishing yourself. 

2. Eat at a Table 

Where do you eat most often? Have you noticed how that impacts your food choices? Where you eat can impact how much you eat, how satisfied you feel afterward, and your digestion.

Try eating most of your meals and snacks at a table and notice how much more you’re able to experience your food and connect to your body and the effect that has on your eating habits.

3. Slow it Down

The faster we do something, the more efficient it is, right? Well, not in the case of eating. 

When we’re eating in fast forward, practicing mindfulness is nearly impossible.

When eating mindfully, it’s important to slow down the pace of your eating. Take a pause or a deep breath between bites, then fully chew and swallow before taking the next bite. Slowing down your eating not only helps you to be more present, but it also helps to promote the sensation of satiety as well as optimal digestion. 

4. Don’t Forget to Breath

Stop and take a breath! 

This is one of my favorite recommendations to give to clients. If you simply pause for 30 seconds before beginning your meal to take a deep breath, you can significantly increase your mindfulness.

Taking a deep breath can even activate the parasympathetic nervous system to let your body know you’re in a state of relaxation. No need to stress and fly through the meal. 

This simple practice can help you be more present while eating, which will help you be mindful of what you’re eating, why you’re eating, what your hunger cues are, and using your senses to enjoy the food you’re about to eat.
That alone can give you so many little insights about your eating habits and help guide you towards what feels best for you and your body.

5. Think About Eating While You Eat

Sounds so simple, right? Yet it’s not very common. 

When we’re thinking about what we have going on later that day, what we’re eating at our next meal, and the stressful conversation we had earlier that day, there’s no chance we’re eating mindfully. 

Before you know it the meal is over and you barely even tasted it! 

Take a moment to pause and experience your food. How does it taste? What does it look like? What do you like about it? What might you change next time you have that meal? 

Actively thinking about your meal allows you to practice mindful eating. 

6. Prepare Your Own Meals

Now I’m not saying you should only eat meals that you’ve prepared at home, that’s not realistic. Who doesn’t love a delicious meal out? 

But what I am saying is to prepare your own meals when you can. When you spend time cooking, chopping, sauteeing, smelling, and looking at your food being assembled, you’re essentially forced to be mindful. It puts you in the mood to eat. 

Mindfulness is all about presence. It’s about awareness and intentionality. Cooking food is a wonderful way to do this!

7. Tune into your Hunger and Satiety Cues

We talk about this one a lot because it’s an important one. In order to practice mindful eating, we need to listen to our bodies. 

Take a moment and pause before eating, how hungry are you feeling? Then after your meal, do you feel full?

Ignoring hunger and satiety cues is one of the most common ways to eat mindlessly. This generally happens when we’re eating in accordance with a schedule or restricting portion sizes due to a diet, detox, or cleanse. 

Listening to hunger and satiety allows for you to be more mindful of portion sizes and increase satiety and fullness at the conclusion of the meal. 

8. Check-in with your Reason for Eating

When we’re not eating mindfully, we can eat as a result of factors that have nothing to do with hunger. Some of the most common factors are stress, emotion, and environmental cues. 

By checking in with yourself before meals, you can make sure you’re really eating because you want to eat, not because you want to avoid stress or anxiety. 

If you’re feeling these emotions, you’ll then be able to address them accordingly rather than relying on food. 

9. Practice Gratitude and Appreciation

When we appreciate what we’re eating and all that goes into the meal, we’re more mindful and present at the moment of eating.

Think about what it took to prepare the meal that you’re having, how good it tastes, how thankful you are to have a meal like this.

This all brings the focus and attention to the meal experience in a positive, mindful way. 

10. Chew Thoroughly

While simple, it can make a world of a difference in the context of mindful eating!

When we don’t thoroughly chew our food, we don’t have time to be present during the eating experience. We’re also left with poorly digested food which can also distract from the mealtime.

The next time you sit down to a meal, actively think about chewing and I bet you’ll slow down a bit! 

11. Listen to your Individual Wants, Likes, and Dislikes

Eat what you really want to have, when you want to have it.

We don’t want to eat as a result of what we feel like we should or shouldn’t have.

The more in-tune you are with your individual wants, likes, and dislikes, the more present and mindful you can be during the eating experience. 

Food is meant to be experienced and enjoyed, it’s not a chore! 

Practice Mindful Eating Today

If you’re new to mindful eating and looking to get started today, my best recommendation is to avoid trying everything at once.

These 10 ways to eat mindfully are all wonderful, but start out by just picking one or two to start with. This will allow you to integrate these new habits with ease rather than overwhelm.

Once your new habits start to feel a bit like second nature, as though they’ve been ingrained into your day-to-day routines, you can then add in an additional habit or two.

Continue in this way until you’ve created your own individual mindful eating practice!

Mindful Nutrition Method

Mindful eating has helped an innumerable amount of Nutrition Stripped members achieve balance and sustainability with their eating habits.

\Our Method teaches them how to create these mindful habits with ease rather than strain, with enjoyment rather than dissatisfaction.

You can start your journey to balanced eating habits today by joining the Mindful Nutrition Method today.