Mindful Eating: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’ve been following me on social media for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not a supporter of dieting, restriction or food rules. For years, I struggled to find a way to eat that worked for me. From counting calories, to measuring portions, to banning certain foods from my diet, I have tried so many approaches. All of these attempts to achieve health did only one thing: leave me unsatisfied and wanting more.

This is when I learned about mindful eating.

Mindful eating is not:

  • A diet
  • A X-week weight loss plan
  • A meal plan or a set of recipes
  • An easy way out

Mindful eating is not meant to be a set of rules, which lead to guilt and shame when not followed. There are many small steps you can take to become a mindful eater.

Here is a quick round-up of some of these steps. Not to worry, I will eventually cover them in depth in future blog posts as this is one of my favourite subjects. 

Choose foods that nourish and satisfy

When making your grocery list or when planning meals, focus on choosing foods that are both nutritious AND delicious. This means if you aren’t a fan of avocado, tofu, kale or grapefruit, don’t add them to your list! In fact, food is meant to be pleasurable, and that means eating foods you love and enjoy.

Recognize and respond to hunger cues

By eating when you’re full and ignoring your rumbling tummy, you eventually get out of sync with your natural hunger cues. That’s your body telling you when it needs some fuel and when it has had enough. Every few hours, check in with your body. What is your level of hunger? 

Eat slowly

Having a busy lifestyle sometimes means putting eating on the back burner. This translates into grabbing bites of a muffin when you can at work, eating supper while getting kids ready for evening activities, and eating so quickly that you don’t even realize you are doing it. Taking time to really savour your foods means enjoying every bite and ultimately, being more satisfied. Do you struggle with eating slowly? Try taking a few mindful bites at the start of your meal.

Eat away from distractions

Distractions can divert our attention from our meal. This means turning off the TV, putting away your cellphone and having an uncluttered table. This allows you to fully concentrate on the task at hand. This is very difficult for some. If you feel this particular aspect of mindful eating is uncomfortable, then don't worry about it. As I mentioned, mindful eating is not about following rules, but about experimenting with different strategies to see what feels good!

Use all senses to enjoy foods

Sight – Choose foods that inspire with their colour, shape and size.

Hearing – Pay attention to the crunch while chewing, to the sound of cutlery on your plate and to the conversation you are sharing.

Touch/Texture – Take time to notice the texture of the food in your mouth. Is it smooth? Hard? Crunchy?

Smell – Enjoy the smell of food while it cooks and just before biting into it. 

Taste – Chew your food thoroughly. Swish it around your whole mouth to get maximum flavour.

Eat with kindness and without judgement

This is probably the hardest part of mindful eating. Mindful eating requires being kind to yourself as you practice different techniques, rediscover foods you love and eat without restrictions. Mindful eating requires you to let go. It requires you to allow food freedom. This can be very scary for those who are used to food rules and diets. At first, mindful eating feels like a complete loss of control, but as you get used to the practice, it actually becomes a source of liberty.

You don’t become a mindful eater overnight. Mindful eating requires practice, patience and determination. That being said, it is completely and utterly worth it. It can help heal your relationship with food, reduce episodes of binge eating and overeating while creating awareness of your body’s responses to food.

Are you are mindful eater? What are some of your biggest challenges to eating mindfully? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!