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Mindful Eating: Beginner’s Guide to Eating Consciously

The problem is that our bodies aren’t always able to digest and metabolize food in the way that we sometimes eat. Mindful eating exercises can help us regain control to prevent binge eating, emotional eating, and ultimately, obesity and eating disorders. 

Mindful eating exercises come from the practice of mindfulness, a Buddhist concept, that aims to bring full attention and awareness to the present moment. When we are mindful, we observe ourselves without judgment and become aware of the physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and feelings that arise with each experience. We may also become more curious and interested in our bodies and begin to think of food in terms of what kind of food and how much of it our body needs.

When we practice mindful eating, we become attuned to our triggers, sensitive toward cravings and hunger cues, and respectful toward signals of satiety.  

A 2006 study on mindful eating and living (MEAL) trained ten obese patients to practice mindful eating exercises over a six-week period. The study found significant increases in measures of mindfulness, and significant decreases in weight, eating disinhibition, binge eating, depression, stress, and physical symptoms of overeating. A 2015 review of mindfulness-based programs for weight loss documented a significant effect among participants for 13 of the 19 studies identified for investigation.  

Not only can mindfulness help instill healthy eating habits, but it can also help increase self-esteem and encourage body positivity

Mindfulness addresses many of the issues that we face in our daily lives. Once you start practicing mindful eating exercises, you may be able to: 

  • Reduce overeating 
  • Control binge-eating 
  • Appreciate food  
  • Learn to cope with negative emotions in a healthy way
  • Address feelings of guilt and anxiety about food
  • Enjoy the present, whether or not it involves food 

Many people find that once they start practicing mindful eating exercises, they naturally lose weight that they have been holding onto for years because healthy foods become more appealing to them than unhealthy foods.

If you’re just starting out on your mindful eating journey, pick one meal a day to practice mindful eating exercises. It can be overwhelming to start out practicing at every meal, which may cause you to stop doing it altogether. Once you have become accustomed to mindfulness, it will begin to come naturally every time you eat.

The following mindful eating script is easy to follow and highly effective. Your mindfulness journey begins here: 

  1. Start with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it avoiding impulse buying.  
  2. Check-in. Wait to eat until your body gives you hunger cues instead of emotional cues to eat. If your emotions are compelling you to eat, ask yourself if you’ll feel better or worse after eating.
  3. Eliminate distractions. Mindful eating involves paying attention to your body, your mindset, and your food. Take away screens, reading material, and any other devices that will distract you from focusing on your meal. Be present by enjoying your surroundings, your food, your own company, and the company of those around you. 
  4. Appreciate your food. Take a moment to consider where your food came from and the process it went through to get to your hands. Who harvested it? How was it transported? Who prepared it? What ingredients went into it? Practice gratitude toward all of the people that were involved.
  5. Slow down. Mealtime is an opportunity to change your pace and savor each moment. Chew slowly, pause in between bites, and put down your utensils every once in a while. It should take you no less than 20 minutes to eat a meal, which is about how long it takes for your body to send signals of satiety.  
  6. Involve all of your senses. Food is not just about taste. Bring all of your senses to the table, and be attuned to the color, texture, aroma, and sounds of your food. As you eat, try to identify the different ingredients, including seasonings, that are in your food. 
  7. Be diligent. It takes 30 days of consistently doing something for it to become a habit. Set a reminder for yourself to follow your mindful eating script once a day for at least a month until it becomes a habit. 

Once mindful eating becomes a normal part of your life, you can learn to correctly read cues from your body, and you might intuitively know what to eat, when to eat it, and how much of it is the optimal amount for your body. These mindful eating exercises can help break the cycle of yo-yo dieting and constantly second-guessing your eating habits. Healthy nutrition and weight management will become second nature.  

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229910001044

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886914002396

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating

https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/page-1863947

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25490697

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