I frequently use the terms “mindful eating” and “mindless eating” as a Registered Dietitian and coach focusing on mindfulness. Despite their superficial similarities, these two ideas regarding our health and connection with food couldn’t be more different. It understands the difference between mindful and mindless eating and how either might affect your health. However, we’ve got everything you need in one convenient place!
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Definition of “Mindful Eating”
Practicing mindful eating entails giving one’s undivided attention to the activity of eating in the here and now. This involves noticing and appreciating the food’s aroma, texture, and flavor. Hence, awareness of hunger and fullness cues and any emotional triggers that may influence eating behaviors are also essential components of mindful eating.
The concept of “eating with intention” is central to the mindful eating philosophy. This indicates that we are deliberate in our selection of foods, motivations for eating, and eating practices. When we’re hungry, we eat; when we’re full, we stop. We also eat in a way that benefits our health by selecting meals high in essential nutrients.
Eating mindfully promotes a healthy perspective on food by balancing satisfying physiological needs and satisfying emotional cravings.
Mindful eating also adheres to the following principles:
- Savoring every morsel by eating slowly
- Taking in the food we eat with all of our senses
- Putting down the phone or turning off the TV so you can focus on your food
- Knowing when to stop eating because we’re no longer hungry or full by listening to our bodies
- Treating ourselves and our bodies with kindness and compassion.
Mindful Eating and Its Benefits
Mindful eating has many positive effects. One benefit is that it can help us form better habits surrounding what and how much we eat. We can control our food intake more effectively by learning to recognize our bodies’ signals about when we’re hungry and complete.
The practice of mindful eating, no doubt, has been shown to increase gastronomic pleasure. A greater appreciation for our foods can be developed through mindful eating practices such as savoring each bite and focusing on the textures, flavors, and aromas. Knowing what foods provide the most and least satisfaction can help us make better food choices.
The importance of enjoying what we eat cannot be overstated.
Mindful eating has been linked favorably to improved psychological well-being. Eating less stressfully and more mindfully can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
On the other hand, mindless eating involves chewing and swallowing without considering what we’re experiencing. This can manifest in various ways, including eating while preoccupied (with a screen or a phone), eating too quickly, or eating for reasons other than hunger. Give yourself some extra compassion at this stage because this is a common experience with food, especially at the beginning of your journey to eating more balanced and mindfully.
Overeating, binge eating, and other unhealthy behaviors can result from eating without paying attention. Eating past the point of fullness and possibly consuming more calories than we can happen when we ignore our bodies hunger and fullness cues.
When we eat for reasons other than hunger, we may turn to food to manage stress, anxiety, or negative feelings. Although there is nothing intrinsically “bad” about emotional eating, doing so regularly can make it harder to find other, more healthy ways to deal with negative feelings in the long run.
One of our former students, Kim, overcame the problem of mindless eating by following the Mindful Nutrition Method. She said she took advantage of everything we taught her and provided in our program.
“There have been many shifts. It’s like night and day to me. My lockbox has been lost or stolen. I no longer binge nearly as often as I used to, and when I do, I have tools I can use to get through it, though I’m still working on using them consistently. In general, I feel less stressed when making food decisions.
The Negative Effects of Mindless Eating on Your Body
The most detrimental effect of mindless eating on our health is the development of an unhealthy attachment to food. When we ignore our bodies nutritional requirements to satisfy our hunger, we indulge in mindless eating out of disconnection or distraction.
Instead of eating in peace, more calories are consumed when eating in front of a screen, whether it’s a TV or a phone. Also, compared to those who eat more slowly, people who wolf down their food consume more energy. While nothing is intrinsically “bad” about eating more, doing so regularly without attention to hunger cues can lead to obesity and other problems.
In addition to having adverse effects on our psychological health and well-being, disordered eating behaviors like binge eating, emotional eating, and undereating can result from using food as a coping mechanism for emotional distress.
Techniques for Eating Consciously
Mindful eating is a skill anyone can learn but may require some practice to master. Some suggestions for getting going are as follows.
Enjoy each bite at a leisurely pace. Slow down your eating and enjoy every taste for what it is.
- Do not multitask while eating. It’s best to put down the phone or turn off the TV when you’re hungry so you can focus on what you’re eating.
- Recognize when you’re feeling hungry or full and act accordingly. Before and during meals, pause to assess your hunger and fullness levels. I made this “mindful eating hunger scale” to help you identify when you’re hungry.
- Pick foods that will help your body thrive. Choose foods high in nutrients to fuel your body to perform optimally.
- Have compassion and kindness for yourself. Do not beat yourself up for moments of mindless eating; remember that no one is perfect. Learn to have compassion and forgiveness for yourself in these trying times.
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Adopt a healthy and tranquil perspective toward food.
Join our online group coaching program, the Mindful Nutrition Method, to create a more positive relationship with food and make lasting changes to your eating habits. By participating in our program, you will learn to eat with more awareness and cultivate a healthier relationship with both food and your body.
To feel secure, stable, and at peace, developing a healthy relationship with food is essential. This three-part system will help you do just that. Get the knowledge and tools you need to improve your health and happiness for good. Don’t put off making changes that will make you healthier and happier.