Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

Bringing the focus to food for the right reasons


Mindless Eating…


We’ve all been there- gulping down breakfast and coffee in the car on the way to work; shoveling dinner in quickly between running in and out of the house; meaning to grab ‘just a handful’ only to discover the entire contents of the package gone before you know it. These are all examples of mindless eating, something many of us know all too well. Easing into a meal with anticipation, preparing ourselves for the experience, and savoring each bite in a relaxed environment is a foreign concept to many of us. European cultures seem to do this well, but many of us in the U.S. forget to prioritize meals, missing out on the enjoyment and health benefits of the food we eat.


Research Shows…


  • Distracted eating promotes over-eating at a single meal, AND leads to the overconsumption of snacks and foods at later meals- concluded in a review of 24 studies in a 2013 meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  • It takes our brain 20 minutes to realize that we are full- so when we consume food too quickly it prevents the important chemicals that signal satiety (fullness) from getting to our brain, making it much easier to over-eat.
  • Our ability to properly digest food is reduced by 30-40% when the food is consumed mindlessly- meaning our food is less nourishing when we are not mindful!


Mindful Eating…


Is a practice in which we intentionally engage in the sensory experience of eating- the appearance, smell, feel, taste, and joy we get from our food. It involves a conscious awareness of how we feel before, during, and after the meal and allows us to sense when we are truly hungry, how our food satisfies our needs and wants, and when we are full. Whether it’s simply sitting at a table to eat instead of eating in the car or something more involved like counting to 30 chews with each bite of food, eating mindfully can help us improve our relationship with the food we eat and have a positive impact on our weight and our health.


How to Eat Mindfully…


  • No Screen. Avoid eating in front of a screen (i.e. television, computer, your smartphone, etc.)
  • Have a Seat. Sit and eat at a table vs. standing, walking around, or driving
  • Downsize. Use smaller utensils and plates, or try chopsticks to help you slow down and take smaller bites
  • Slow Down. Put your fork down onto the plate between bites or hold it in your non-dominant hand to slow down
  • Chew and Chew. Take one bite at a time and chew thoroughly– aim for 30 chews per bite to savor the flavor and help with digestion
  • Make it a Date. Have a sit-down family meal, make it a routine and something all will look forward to
  • Hide Temptation. Avoid leaving snacks out in plain sight (candy bowls, etc.) as this can promote the “see-food” diet, reflexive, habitual, or boredom eating


While eating mindfully may not be realistic in every situation, try these techniques for at least 3 meals per week. See if you can make it a daily ritual, even if it’s just dinner. This will aid in your weight loss efforts, your digestion will be improved, and your overall enjoyment of food and appreciation for meal time will be restored.


Contributed by Michelle Kennedy, MSN NP-C

in collaboration with Courtney Locklear, MPH, RD, LDN