Mindful eating is one of the hottest topics in nutrition today.
Given its many health and wellness benefits, this doesn’t come as a surprise to many of us! Still, many providers and clients alike aren’t sure what mindful eating entails, and proper guidance on the topic is essential.
So, what is mindful eating? Mindful eating, rooted in Buddhist philosophy and tradition, is the practice (and mindset) that we can experience and enjoy food more intensely by increasing our awareness and attention to the present moment. It represents a profound shift in the way most Americans eat today, and can have hugely positive impact on the relationship we develop with food.
We asked 25 men and women in New York City if they thought eating mindfully was a challenging practice. Here’s what we heard:
Eating mindfully is desired, but respondents cited a lack of time.
“Pausing to paying attention to our food is just not part of society anymore. Let me give you an example. Right now, I step out of the office at lunchtime to pick up some food, bring it back to my desk, and eat it while I peruse the news on my computer or scroll through Facebook. Look, I understand that ideally I’d sit outside and smell the roses, but it’s hard to take the time to do that.”
Current habits dictate eating behaviors, and it’s hard to change them.
“I don’t eat mindfully because I’ve never really tried. It’s a cool concept and would probably help me with eating healthier, but right now I’ve been doing my thing.”
Today’s general society and nutrition approach doesn’t make eating mindfully easy.
“I feel like we are constantly inundated with information on various supplements, diets, nutrition guidelines and recommendations. And it can be confusing. And when I tie that into making thoughtful food decisions, it’s hard because everything around me is like a shiny new toy. This candy bar, that juice cleanse, those sugary coffee drinks. When I think about eating mindfully, yes ideally I’d be able to plan out my food, but it’s hard when we hear so much conflicting information.”
So, what does this all mean?
Mindful eating is one important tool you can introduce to your clients to support them in developing a healthier relationship with food in the long-term. Many of your clients may recognize that their behaviors are less than ideal, but changing habits requires support and accountability.
Looking for some basic tips to help your clients start on their journey to eating mindfully?
Here are 5 tips to help your clients get started with mindful eating:
1. Eat Slowly
Chew every bite deliberately, pausing to actually experience the food. Put your fork down between each bite, and while taking your next bite, bring awareness to the sensation of all of the delicious flavors!
2. Focus On Your Food
Put away your phone (sorry that includes your Healthie app too!), turn off the TV, set the magazine aside. Multi-tasking while chowing down, or “passive eating” means that our bodies aren’t being attended to as we eat. These leads to overeating and less satisfaction in the process of eating.
3. Be Intentional With Every Bite
Portion sizes are often larger than our body requires. This easily leads to overeating and can be confusing if we are not intuitively tuned into our hunger. Don’t worry about eating to finish your plate, just enjoy and learn to be attuned to your body’s needs!
4. Check In
Why are you eating, and how do you feel? Part of mindful eating is the awareness of whether you are actually hungry, or just thirsty, or even bored, stressed, or engrained in a habit of eating at a particular time.
In Healthie, your clients can mark their pre-meal hunger and post-meal fullness in their food log as a means of checking in with themselves. Clients can also choose an emotion associated with each meal and snack they log. These are a few of the metrics your clients can track by using Healthie.
5. Build New Habits
We know, easier said than done. But that’s why you (the nutrition professional) are here: to help support your clients in their journey to new habits!
Mindful eating comes down to truly respecting, appreciating, and enjoying yourself and the food you put into your body at every present moment. For most, this is a huge lifestyle shift, which takes patience and practice. We know you care for your clients during the process, and we are here to care for you along the way!
Note: This post is not meant to be a representative, evidence-based study on Mindful Eating. Rather, we wanted to hear what people in NYC (n=25) are saying about mindful eating, how their eating habits affect their food choices, and gain understanding on some of the barriers they encounter.