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Eat Mindfully, Live Happily

By eHealthIQ
Reviewed: January 06, 2015
In a world that often feels food-obsessed, it is all too easy to develop an unhealthy relationship to food. Mindful eating is a practice that you can use to establish a healthier, more self-aware connection to what you eat. By practicing mindful eating, you can learn to identify unhealthy habits, make healthier choices, and maintain a healthy weight.

What is it?

Mindful eating incorporates many techniques found in meditation. While eating and meditation may sound unrelated, consider the emotional valences of eating. Eating is something that you may turn to for comfort when you are stressed or sad, it may be a source of guilt or anxiety, or it may be a way that you reward yourself.

Mindful eating is a self-reflective approach to eating. As you reflect on what you eat and why you eat it, you will become more in tune with your body’s response to food—and you will take new pleasure in eating. The University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine also acknowledges the dietary benefit of mindful eating: because it slows down your eating process, it gives your brain a chance to recognize that you are full before you overeat.

How do you practice mindful eating?

Reflections. If you are new to mindful eating, the most important step is for you pay attention to the how and why of your current eating habits. It may be helpful for you to keep a journal of these reflections. Instead of reaching for food thoughtlessly, ask yourself if and why you are hungry, why you have chosen that particular food, and how you feel about these choices. Mindful eating is not about judging yourself or others; it is about connecting to your own unique eating practices. For more examples of mindful eating reflections, see the Mindful Eating Plate.

Use your senses. Mindful eating should engage all of your senses. One rule of thumb is to taste a food as though you have never eaten it before. Pay attention to the exact flavors, textures, and smells, chewing in small bites to savor the experience. You should also give eating your full attention; turn off the TV, put down the book, and suspend dinner table conversation. Other sense-enhancing suggestions include eating with your non-dominant hand, eating while blindfolded, and putting your utensils back on the table between each bite.

As you continue to practice mindful eating, you will notice new details about why certain foods give you more satisfaction than others. You will also learn to differentiate between physical hunger and emotional hunger, making it possible for you to make healthier eating choices. Mindful eating is a step toward mindful living, and it can make a positive difference in your relationship to food.

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