What is mindful eating and what are the best ways to practice it?

Life seems to be passing us by in a rush these days. Because everything is so hectic, it’s not unusual for us to miss out on a meal, grab something to go or even just eat in front of our computers.

We graze, we eat when we’re not hungry – or we eat far too much and end up useless for the rest of the evening. What we’re trying to say is, our relationship with food has gotten a little skewed the last while. But practicing mindful eating could be the key to getting back on track with your nutrition intake, your mental health and your relationship with mealtimes!

Top View of a Family Praying Before Christmas Dinner

Mindful eating feels a little strange and even pointless at the beginning, but really, all it is is eating with care. Being intentional with your food and mealtimes means giving them the attention they deserve, as they nourish and improve your eating habits.

There are lots of simple measures to take to eat mindfully, curbing bad habits like rushed meals, food cravings and mindless eating.

Eat slowly

woman in black long sleeve shirt holding a burger

Mealtimes should be indulgent, slow moments to really savour your food and take time out of your day to enjoy nourishing yourself. Horsing down food doesn’t give your body time to send signals to let you know if you should stop eating or eat more. As a result, we could overeat, so slowing down is best. Taking a pause between each bite is an effective way to monitor yourself and eventually it will become second nature.

Put your cutlery down

woman holding plate of cake

Another tip for slowing down, putting down your cutlery is a handy way to make you stop and focus on what’s right in front of you. You’re not scooping up the next bite or getting ready to pile it onto your fork – you’re really tasting your food, centring yourself in the present and eating slowly and mindfully.

Asses your hunger before eating

white and gold round ceramic plate

Give yourself a scale of 1-10 of hunger and asses yourself before you sit down to a meal. How hungry are you really right now? Are you just eating because it’s time to eat or do you genuinely need nourishment and energy? It’s important that this doesn’t become controlling and restrictive – eat when you are hungry, even if your hunger is just at a 2 or 3. It’s about having your portion on your plate reflect that number on your hunger scale so you aren’t eating too much in one sitting.

Enjoy your eating space

champagne flute on table

If there’s laundry, keys, handbags, dirty glasses and God knows what else all over the table you eat at, it’s not going to be an enjoyable experience. We will be distracted by the mess and the tasks that they represent and wonder when we’ll have the time to get to them, meaning we’re not focusing on our meal or the people we’re having it with. Clear off your table, invest in a few nice pieces – a table runner or some glasses you really like, or even a vase for some flowers – and have some fun decorating the space. When a space looks inviting, we automatically want to spend more time in it, so creating a welcoming space to eat means you’ll enjoy and savour the experience.

Minimise distractions

Person Taking Photo of Dish in Bowl

The worst thing you could do while eating is have a radio, TV, or phone going in the background. These items take you out of the present moment and into a space where you’re distracted, entertained and have your attention fully taken by something stimulating. You don’t concentrate on your body or your food meaning you end up eating too much or too little, as you miss the body’s signals. We’re all guilty of having a dinner in front of the TV now and again, but if it’s a regular occurrence, you need to switch things up a little.