If you’re already a mindful eating pro—if you already savor every bite, drop the fork early, and never overeat—then all you’ll get from this article are a few tips to reinforce your healthy ways.
But if you’re like most of us, there’s room for improvement. And this improvement can enhance every aspect of your life.
Eating mindfully benefits both mind and body. Not only will you digest your food better, but you might even rekindle the joy of eating.
You’ll learn practical ways to eat mindfully in a moment. First, let’s start with some basics.
What is Mindful Eating?
Broadly speaking, mindful eating means bringing greater awareness to your relationship with food. It can mean:
- Savoring a bite of blueberry muffin
- Chewing slowly and deliberately
- Monitoring your appetite so you can stop eating when full
- Thoughtfully planning your meals, macros, and portions
- Being fully present while cooking
Mindful eating is listening to your body, tasting your food, checking in with yourself, and making wise decisions. It’s the opposite of mindless eating.
Mindless eating is the default mode in modern society. It’s wolfing down a cheesesteak at the airport while scrolling through your news feed. It’s munching cashews during the football game regardless of hunger. It’s feeling like a beached whale after multiple passes at the holiday buffet.
Mindfulness and Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is an offshoot of a broader skill: mindfulness. In a nutshell, mindfulness is an awareness of whatever is happening in the present moment.
It’s a valuable skill to develop. If you’re aware you’re getting angry—if you feel your face flushing, your heart rate rising, and your breathing quicken—you can catch yourself before you lash out.
And if you’re aware of stress arising, that’s helpful too. You can take a break, exercise, or practice conscious breathing to calm down.
The same logic applies to mindful eating. The more awareness you bring to your eating habits, the healthier they’ll tend to be.
Health Benefits of Mindful Eating
Eating is one of life’s great pleasures, but we rarely give it the attention it deserves. When was the last time you gave your full attention to dinner?
If enhanced food pleasure were the only benefit, that would be enough. But mindful eating may also help with:
- Digestion. Mindful chewing breaks down food and may facilitate better digestion.[*]
- Weight management. If you listen to your satiety signals, you won’t overeat. Less overeating, less weight gain.[*]
- Blood sugar regulation. Eating more slowly suppresses blood sugar spikes. Healthier blood sugar, in turn, helps with inflammation, appetite, and insulin management.[*][*]
If you think about it, mindful eating advances any health goal. Diet is a pillar of health, and bringing a wise awareness to your eating habits has no downside.
Who Might Benefit from Mindful Eating?
Anyone can benefit from mindful eating. Listening to your body, savoring food, and making wise decisions are universal skills.
Mindful eating may also be useful for those with eating disorders. In one meta-analysis, researchers found that less mindfulness was associated with more binge eating, emotional eating, and body dissatisfaction.[*]
Another review paper found that mindfulness interventions—especially sustained interventions—were likely effective for treating anorexia nervosa.[*]
9 Ways To Practice Mindful Eating
Time to get practical. Follow these tips to eat more mindfully and healthfully.
#1: Design your home environment
If you want to avoid mindless eating, keep junk food out of the house. It’s a simple move that goes a long way towards healthier habits.
Scrupulously inspect everything that enters your kitchen. When you open your fridge and pantry, you should see foods that support your health goals.
#2: Plan your meals
When you make a plan, you’re more likely to perform the desired action. For example: if you want to eat a Keto diet, you should plan your low-carb meals ahead of time.
Want to simplify this planning function? Use the Carb Manager app to set macro and calorie goals, choose from thousands of recipes, and meal plan your way to success.
#3: Shop intelligently
Designing your home environment starts at the grocery store. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it.
The trick is to make a shopping list beforehand. It’s easier to avoid aisle 9 when nothing in aisle 9 is on your list.
#4: Be present while cooking
Cooking can be a form of meditation. To practice, be aware of every step: chopping, sizzling, stirring, etc. This will not only relax you, but it might improve your cooking too!
#5: Practice portion control
When you're hungry, your eyes will be bigger than your stomach. It pays to be aware of this and limit your portions accordingly.
Pro tip: Use the Carb Manager app to log your meals. This will help you develop an intuitive sense of proper portions.
#6: Just eat
The basic premise of Zen meditation is simple: just bring your full attention to whatever you're doing.
That includes eating. Don’t watch the news, check your phone, or read a book while you eat. Just eat.
#7: Be mindful of your tongue
Sound boring? Then you haven’t been mindful of your tongue.
Next time you eat, pay close attention to your tongue. It’s a strange organ. It bounces around in your mouth with a mind of its own. There’s a lot to notice there.
#8: Chew more
The more you chew, the better you’ll digest food. Play around with chewing 20 to 30 times before you swallow. Continue this practice for long enough, and eventually, it will become habitual.
#9: Stop before you feel full
To prevent overeating, stop eating before you're full. Why before you’re full? Because it takes time for satiety hormones like leptin and cholecystokinin to register, reach your brain, and send fullness signals.
This takes a fine-tuned awareness, but you can do it. The more slowly you eat, the easier it will be.
Practical Thoughts on Mindful Eating
The goal isn’t to practice mindful eating 100% of the time. That’s not realistic.
Start small instead. Try one or two of the above tips and see how it goes.
Plan your portions with the Carb Manager app. Enjoy an undistracted meal. See what your tongue is up to.
Mindful eating is self-reinforcing. Once you experience the benefits, you’ll want to deepen your practice.