What IS Mindful Eating?

The terms “mindful eating” and “mindfulness” are so commonly used now when talking about a healthy eating pattern, but what does that even mean?

With all the misinformation about nutrition and eating patterns circling around us all the time it is easy to get confused! Let’s clarify what mindful eating is and how you can incorporate it into your life and maybe even lose a few pounds!

The best way is to start, is to actually talk about the opposite. If we are not being MINDFUL of what we are eating, then we must be being MINDLESS.

Mindfulness Sign

Mindless Eating and Why it’s a Problem

Have you ever found yourself snack on a bag of popcorn and the next thing you know it’s completely empty? Or finished a meal and being overly stuffed even to the point of nausea? Have you ever been sad or stressed and found yourself reaching for that carton of ice cream or glass of wine? Well, my friend, you were mindlessly eating.

Mindless eating is anytime you are eating without awareness of what and how much is being eaten. It is eating without paying attention to hunger or fullness cues and letting your emotions or desires control when, what, and how much you are eating. Mindless eating leads to over eating, associating food with feelings and rewards and in many cases leads to weight gain or inhibiting weight loss.

woman eating a sandwich outside while working

Common Mindless Eating Scenarios

  • Eating because it is available- Whether at your own home grazing in the pantry or standing next to the appetizer table at a party. Listen to me, walk away!
  • Eating to please others- I’m talking to you people pleasers out there!
  • Using food or alcohol as a reward- Rewards a great! But they should be non-food related!
  • Eating because it’s time to eat-We all have the tendency to get into a routine in life. Just because it is noon time does not mean it has to be lunch time if you are not hungry yet!
  • Eating because we fear food might not be available later- If you are going somewhere unknown and not sure if a meal or snack will be available, no need to eat as if preparing for hibernation, pack a light snack to bring with you!
  • Because I (or someone else) spent money on it- Say a gracious thank you and either save it for later or pass along the gift to someone who will enjoy it.
  • Because it’s free- Have you ever walked around at BJ’s or Costco when they have the samples out? You could easily eat a whole meal without intending on it.
  • To make ourselves feel better, numb or distract ourselves from feeling something- Managing feelings, emotions can be tough. But that carton of ice cream or bottle of wine is not going to solve the underlying cause. It’s better to face the emotions than to try and stuff them away.
  • Because it smells or looks good- And it often looked/smelled better than it was! Or, have you ever been cooking a big holiday meal and picked along the way, by the time the meal comes your too full to eat!
  • Eating while doing other things- Don’t let your TV, phone, social media, or even a book distract you from how much you are eating and listening to your fullness cues.
  • To fill time/because we are bored-  Ever stood in front of the fridge just looking for something, anything, not really sure what, not really hungry but hmmm maybe I’ll have a snack……
Open Calendar on desk

How You Can Become More Mindful

Now that I have increased your awareness of times you have been mindlessly eating, let’s talk more ways to avoid those situations and the unwanted pounds they tend to pack on. Whether only one of those scenarios applied to you (or ALL of them) these are solutions that you can easily start applying today and share with friends and family!

Start by only eating in the kitchen or dining room at the table. Stop sitting on the couch or standing leaning up against the counter. Next, turn off the distraction. Really pay attention to how much you are eating, the pace at which you are eating and listen for those fullness cues!

Serve your meals on plates or bowls, not right out of the container/bag/package and use a smaller plate (such as a salad plate vs oversized dinner plates) and use a large glass for water. This will help those Clean Plate Club members who feel the need to fill up and then clear a whole plate at every meal.

If you are a grazer or have trouble saying no to certain foods, then don’t buy them! Keep them out of the house so they are less tempting and then you can have them as treat when out. Same goes for buying the bulk sized bags, if you cannot portion it out in a bowl/plate/bag then don’t buy them. Nuts are a great example. An awesome food to have on hand, but the portion can easily get out of hand if you are eating the cashews straight from the container!

Plan, plan, plan. Plan out your meals and snacks for the week so that you are not making meal time decisions when over hungry, tired, emotional etc. And when you are planning maximize volume and nutritional value by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables and have plenty of water on hand all day!

Have more questions about how you can incorporate mindful eating into your life?

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