What is mindful eating?
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way. We pay attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally (Kabat-Zinn, 2016). Mindful eating is applying this sort of nonjudgmental awareness to our eating. Applying nonjudgmental awareness to our eating process we become fully open to the experience of eating and consume each and every bite of our food in full awareness.
When we eat mindfully it is like being one with the farmer who produced the food. Being one with the ground in which the food was cultivated. The rain and water used in the process of cultivation and cooking. It’s all in there in our food. Eating mindfully we honor all the process our food went through to finally be consumed by us.
• Before going for a meal we can close our eyes and notice our breath for a few seconds.
• When we are eating or drinking we just stop doing anything else.
• Putting our cellphone away from us or on silent mode during a meal creates a ground of silence in which we can practice mindful eating.
• Sitting down for our food we learn to really be with the food we eat.
• Observing the sight of our food we also learn to appreciate its smell.
• Doing one thing at a time we slowly lift our food, and start to chew.
• When chewing we give chewing the full attention and most importantly we chew very slowly.
• While chewing we tend to move our hands getting the food ready for next bite. Rather than going for another bite we give our time fully to the bite we are having.
• We can be aware of coordinated movement of our tongue and jaw and in the meantime express gratitude for this wonderful process of chewing.
• When we are ready we swallow our food and mindfully be ready for the next bite.
Talking during our meal : Great Zen master Thich nhat hann says in his book peace is every step (Nhat & Kotler, 1991) that he does not recommend silent meals every day. He says talking to each other can be a wonderful way to be together in mindfulness. He goes on and warns us to distinguish among different kinds of talk. Instead of discussing people and their shortcomings we mindfully engage in talk that nourishes our awareness.
What can we expect during mindful eating exercises?
• Naturally this takes longer than it used to when we were eating mindlessly.
• Our mind tends to go into its habitual mode where it wants to gulp one bite after another.
• Eating mindfully is simple but it is also difficult to do so because it is in the nature of our mind to wonder away from the task of eating. Out mind relates this sort of task as boring.
Benefits of mindful eating
- Mindful eating decreases binge episodes, improving one’s sense of self-control with regard to eating, and diminishing depressive symptoms (Kristeller & Wolever, 2010) (Baer, Fischer, & Huss, 2005)
- Reductions in body mass index.(Tapper et al., 2009)
- Improvement in Pain, sleep and worrying symptoms of type II diabetes.(Faude-Lang et al., 2010)
- Significant decreases in weight, eating disinhibition, binge eating, depression, perceived stress, physical symptoms, negative affect, and C-reactive protein.(Dalen et al., 2010)
- Less emotional distress and improved abilities to manage stress.(Proulx, 2007)
References of scientific articles and mindfulness books:
Baer, R. A., Fischer, S., & Huss, D. B. (2005). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy applied to binge eating: A case study. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 12, 351-358. doi: 10.1016/S1077-7229(05)80057-4
Dalen, J., Smith, B. W., Shelley, B. M., Sloan, A. L., Leahigh, L., & Begay, D. (2010). Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary therapies in medicine, 18, 260-264. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008
Faude-Lang, V., Hartmann, M., Schmidt, E.-M., Humpert, P., Nawroth, P., & Herzog, W. (2010). Akzeptanz- und achtsamkeitsbasiertes Gruppenkonzept für Patienten mit fortgeschrittenem Diabetes Typ 2: Konzept und praktische Erfahrungen. [Acceptance- and Mindfulness-Based Group Intervention in Advanced Type 2 Diabetes Patients: Therapeutic Concept and Practical Experiences]. Psychother Psych Med, 60(05), 185-189. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1248420
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2016). Wherever you go, there you are : mindfulness meditation for everyday life.
Kristeller, J. L., & Wolever, R. Q. (2010). Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training for Treating Binge Eating Disorder: The Conceptual Foundation. Eating Disorders, 19, 49-61. doi: 10.1080/10640266.2011.533605
Nhat, H., & Kotler, A. (1991). Peace is every step : the path of mindfulness in everyday life. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books.
Proulx, K. (2007). Experiences of Women with Bulimia Nervosa in a Mindfulness-Based Eating Disorder Treatment Group. Eating Disorders, 16, 52-72. doi: 10.1080/10640260701773496
Tapper, K., Shaw, C., Ilsley, J., Hill, A. J., Bond, F. W., & Moore, L. (2009). Exploratory randomised controlled trial of a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention for women. Appetite, 52, 396-404. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.11.012