Saint Louis University

BLOG: Beginners Guide to Mindful Eating

Author: Sarah Berglind
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A guest lecturer recently presented the Art of Mindful Eating to our internship class. Mindful Eating is a hot topic in Dietetics and an up and coming intervention for weight management. Mindfulness is the awareness of what is present right in front of you. Take a minute and observe what is happening at this exact moment: how are you feeling emotionally, what is physically happening around you, and what are you thinking about right now. This mindfulness is an acceptance of what is and promotes balance, choice, and wisdom.

With these tips in mind, I am confident that we will all be able to successfully take the leap!

Saint Louis University Dietetic Internship Mindful Eating

Now, lets talk about eating. It is a physical necessity to eat throughout the day and it is usually defined by putting food or nutrients into the body for digestion and absorption. If we blend together mindfulness and eating to make “mindful eating” the definition is to be aware (physically, emotionally, and mentally) of what food and nutrients are going into your body. In today’s fast paced society, it is hard to take a moment and think about what you are eating, so after reading this post I hope to motivate you to take the time to become aware of all that food has to offer.

Let’s do a quick meditation activity that you can do right where you are at this moment. Take a minute and grab a grape, raisin, cheerio, or a bit of a food that is easily accessible and put it in front of you. We are going to practice mindful eating habits right now with this small piece of food.

  • First, you need to assess your hunger level on a hunger number scale. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being starving and 10 being uncomfortably full, how hungry are you? Write it down on a piece of paper to see if it changes throughout the exercise.
  • Next, grab the food and lets physically observe it. What does it feel like? What does it smell like? What does it look like? Have any of these factors made you more or less hungry? Write down your hunger number.
  • Now put the food into your mouth and note the texture of the food. Then, go ahead and chew the food noting the taste and how it changes after being chewed multiple times. Are you becoming aware of the complexity of the food now?
  • Now swallow the food and be aware of what the body will be doing with it. How is your hunger level now? Has it changed from the beginning of the exercise?

Congratulations, you have successfully done the mindful eating meditation exercise! The exercise should have taught you that food is more than something we eat to fill the hunger feeling. Each food item has a different texture, taste, smells, and nourishment associated with it. Mindful eating can help with portion control, choosing healthier food options, and enjoying your meal more.

So, the next time you sit down to have a meal, follow these tips for mindful eating:

  1. Assess your hunger before and during the meal. By using the hunger scale, 1 (starving)-10 (uncomfortably full), you can mindfully choose the amount of food that should be eaten and control your portions. A good number to be around is 5 before eating a meal and 7 after a meal is completed. This range avoids the potential for overeating.
  2. Do not eat while distracted! The number one reason that people have a hard time practicing mindful eating is because most of the time they are eating a meal in front of the TV, on the computer, or eating on the go. When you eat while distracted, you are not fully giving the food and amount you are eating all of the attention. Eat at a table and give 100% of your attention on the meal in front of you.
  3. Be aware of cooking procedures. Some food items are cooked with high fat oils and other additives that cause weight gain. These hidden ingredients are not always available for the public eye, so be mindful of how food is prepared if eating away from home. You can still eat these foods, but again assess hunger and portion control.
  4. Remember to savor and enjoy your food! Meals and foods are meant to be enjoyed, so try and think about why you like certain foods so much. You may find yourself exploring more options if you can figure out what tastes and textures you enjoy the most.
  5. Saint Louis University Dietetic Internship Mindful Eating

    After reading this blog, I hope I have encouraged some of you to give mindful eating a try! You will see that if you take the time to think about the food you are eating, you may find yourself enjoying meal times more, eating healthier, and controlling portion sizes. With the winter and holiday season coming up, now is the perfect time to practice mindful eating techniques, so you can be prepared to fully enjoy all the delicious home cooked meals and keep off the holiday weight!

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