Mindful eating might be a topic that you’re well-versed in, or maybe it’s totally new for you! Either way, returning back to the definition of mindfulness can be a helpful starting point for building a mindful eating practice.

The founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. I’ve bolded non-judgmentally here because I find that it’s easy to forget this key element of mindfulness, especially when it comes to eating. 

Diet culture has created a lot of unhelpful food rules that often designate certain foods as “good” and certain foods as “bad”. This makes it challenging to trust ourselves with making food choices and can lead to feelings of guilt and shame after eating the “bad” foods. 

Practicing mindful eating can help us be present with food, savor the eating experience, and build a more positive relationship with food (i.e. maybe feel a little less crazy and a little more sane around food). Below are a few strategies to help you get started with building a mindful eating practice.

1.Cooking with Purpose

You don’t have to wait until you sit down at the table to start practicing mindful eating. Paying attention and staying present while you’re cooking can help set the stage for a more mindful eating experience. Start by bringing awareness to your senses as you’re preparing a meal; see the ingredients change throughout the cooking process, smell the fragrant spices as they toast, feel the different textures of the vegetables as you chop, taste the flavors changing as the dish cooks, hear the sizzling as you open the oven to check on your dish. 

2. Set the Mood

Take a moment to assess your mealtime environment and see what you can add to create an enjoyable experience for yourself. This can simply be lighting a candle, serving dinner on a plate, setting your phone aside and muting notifications, or turning on relaxing music. Experiment to find what works best and allows you to have a more pleasant and enjoyable eating experience. 

3. Discover and Prioritize Satisfaction 

As we’ve discussed, diet culture has created many unhelpful food rules that can often complicate the process of deciding what to eat. These rules can cause us to lose touch with our own food preferences and lose trust in our body. Before a meal, take a moment to consider what sounds good in the moment and which types of foods would feel satisfying and sustaining. Consider aspects like food texture, temperature, and mouthfeel. Taking time to eat a meal rather than multitasking while eating can also help create a more satisfying experience.

As you start out with these mindful eating strategies, don’t forget about removing judgment. You don’t have to create a satisfying, mindful eating experience that is completely free from distractions every time you eat. Life is busy and full of distractions! Instead, start by designating one meal time per week to start practicing mindful eating and see what comes up for you. Need recipe ideas? Check out this Roasted Delicata Squash, Pomegranate & Arugula Salad that we love for this time of year. 

Want to learn more about mindful eating and how it may help you achieve your health goals? Many of our providers are trained in mindful and intuitive eating and would love to support you in learning a new skill.

Interested in learning more? Schedule an appointment with us to get support on your journey to holistic and kind health.

Written by Chelsea Fechtner-Hemmenway, MS, CN, NBC-HWC