I was taught to eat everything on my plate. I was told there were starving children around the world and that I was wasting food if I didn’t eat it all. I interpreted that to mean that if I ate all the food I was served (even if it was more than I could comfortably eat), I would be a good person who cared about those children and about the people who bought and made my food.
In my late 20’s, I realized that eating until I was overfull and uncomfortable or in pain was
just as wasteful as throwing food away (and more wasteful than saving it for leftovers),
preventing me from fully enjoying my meal,
not going to solve world hunger, and
not healthy for me or anyone else
I started to look for ways of eating that would not waste food and would improve my health and enjoyment of meals. I began learning about mindful eating, which involves non-judgmental awareness of your food and its effects on your body. Mindful eating practices include
eating more slowly
paying attention to the body’s reaction to foods without judgement
acknowledging feelings about food and allowing them to pass
These types of mindful practices have been shown to help people
make healthier food choices
eat smaller portions
alleviate digestive issues
Being more mindful about eating has taught me to how to make healthier decisions about my food choices, which also means less waste and more enjoyment of the foods I eat.
I learned to slow down, listen to my body and recognize signs of fullness, and stop eating when I felt satisfied instead of overfull. Enjoying my food without judgement was also key to alleviating anxiety that used to give me frequent abdominal pain.
These are some of the practices I try to follow at meals:
Eat when I’m physically hungry
Start with small portions; I can get more if I’m still hungry
Take my time when eating—chew food thoroughly, breathe between bites
Stop eating before
I’m no longer tasting the food
My clothes start feeling uncomfortable
I’m not really enjoying the meal
Eating is much more enjoyable now. Food tastes better when I’m truly hungry and I can focus on enjoying my meal and conversation instead of how much I’m eating.
Mindful eating has improved my physical health as well as my enjoyment of eating.
(See recommended reading on mindful eating at the bottom of the page.)
Join me and Leigh Taylor for
A Taste of Mindful Eating
a virtual 1/2 day workshop
Sunday, March 20, 2022
10a-2p (EST), 3p-7p (CET), 2p-6p (BST)
How to Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh is a book that shares practical tips for eating mindfully as well as considering the many ways that we are connected to the food we eat and with each other.
The Center for Mindful Eating website has a lot of information on eating mindfully. This page is a good place to start:
Studies related to mindful eating
Aucoin M, Lalonde-Parsi MJ, Cooley K. Mindfulness-based therapies in the treatment of functional gastrointestinal disorders: a meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med . 2014;2014:140724.
Chang YM, El-Zaatari M, Kao JY. Does stress induce bowel dysfunction?. Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol . 2014;8(6):583-585.
Cherpak CE. Mindful Eating: A Review Of How The Stress-Digestion-Mindfulness Triad May Modulate And Improve Gastrointestinal And Digestive Function. Integr Med (Encinitas) . 2019;18(4):48-53.
Fung TT, Long MW, Hung P, Cheung LWY. An Expanded Model for Mindful Eating for Health Promotion and Sustainability: Issues and Challenges for Dietetics Practice. 2016; 116(7): 1081-1086.
Hawton K, Ferriday D, Rogers P, et al. Slow Down: Behavioural and Physiological Effects of Reducing Eating Rate. Nutrients . 2018;11(1):50.
Keesman, M., Aarts, H., Häfner, M., & Papies, E. K. (2020). The decentering component of mindfulness reduces reactions to mental imagery. Motivation Science, 6 (1), 34–42.
O'Reilly GA, Cook L, Spruijt-Metz D, Black DS. Mindfulness-based interventions for obesity-related eating behaviours: a literature review. Obes Rev . 2014;15(6):453-461.
Stanszus LS, Frank P, Geiger SM. Healthy eating and sustainable nutrition through mindfulness? Mixed method results of a controlled intervention study, Appetite, Volume 141, 2019.
Warren JM, Smith N, Ashwell M. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviors: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition Research Reviews (2017), 30, 272-283.