How to Start Eating Mindfully

“Slow down, breathe in, savor every bite.”


Have you noticed as you get older it can be harder to stay in tune with your hunger cues? Mindful eating is all about staying present during your meals and listening to how your body feels. This can be a great habit to prevent overeating and to learn more about the foods you enjoy. Mindful eating and listening to your hunger cues go hand in hand.

When we’re younger we are very in tune with our hunger and fullness cues. Mothers trust their children to tell them when they’re hungry and when they’re satisfied. As we age, it can become more difficult to identify these internal signals. If you’ve drifted away from your hunger and fullness cues, try not to get discouraged! With diet culture, unrealistic beauty standards, and ever-changing restaurant trends this is not at all uncommon. These cues can be relearned but it will take a lot of patience. This process might be gradual and that’s 100% okay. We can’t relearn something overnight when our habits have taken years to develop.

So how do you start eating mindfully?

  • Get rid of distractions
  • Focus on how foods make you feel
  • Find your fullness cues
  • Take time to chew your food well

Getting Rid of Distractions

Have you ever been watching a movie and noticed 10 minutes in that your fingers are scraping the bottom of a popcorn bowl? This is an example of distracted eating. Are you really hungry for all that popcorn at once? You likely ate all that popcorn because you were distracted and not as mindful of your intake.

Some other common distractions are social media and work. If you do a working lunch, this might be something you want to reevaluate. Distractions take away a lot of our food’s satisfaction. It could be one of your favorite foods, but are you really going to get the full experience of taste, smell, texture, etc. when you’re scrolling on Instagram? I doubt it!

Eliminating these distractions is not an easy task and sometimes it’s not realistic to cut out everything at once. Try starting with five minutes at each meal that is focused only on what you’re eating. If you’re bored and sick of it after that, move on but eventually, this will get easier and you might even prefer to avoid those distractions for 10, 15 minutes, and so on. It doesn’t take too long to finish your meal.

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How Does Food Make You Feel?

Think about your favorite snack. How light or weighed down do you feel after eating that food? Do you actually feel satisfied or are you full and wishing for something else? Full and satisfied are not the same thing. If you are eating before a workout it can be helpful to focus on your energy levels. It’s a game changer when you start eating foods that agree with your workout schedule. Think about how much easier it would be to exercise with added energy and without uncomfortable feelings in your stomach.

Start by making a list of questions that you think are relevant to how your food makes you feel.

Here are a few examples to get you started…

  • Do I feel bloated after eating? Maybe the food is something that doesn’t sit well with what you’re doing that day. You may have eaten a lot of high-fiber foods or cruciferous vegetables. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out those foods, but you can use your feelings as feedback and eat a little less of them next time.
  • Do I feel like something is missing from this meal? When a meal doesn’t feel satisfying or leaves you wanting more, consider what ingredients you could add to feel more satisfied next time.
  • Does this food make me feel tired? If you’re planning to exercise an hour after your meal, you probably don’t want your food to make you feel tired. It could be too much volume at one time that’s leaving you sluggish. On the flip side, it could be a lack of carbohydrates or protein that you need to either feel energized or sustain your energy over time.

Find your Fullness Cues

Hunger and fullness cues come into play when you’re trying to determine your quantity of food. You don’t want to finish a meal feeling stuffed, but you also don’t want to get stuck eating snacks every hour because your meal didn’t satisfy you. It comes down to getting in touch with your body’s cues.

A good first step is to stop halfway through your meals. This does not mean you can’t finish your meal or even go back for seconds! It’s simply a stopping point so you can evaluate how you’re feeling for a minute or two. Ask yourself if you are hungry or if the food tastes as good as it did when you first started. If you decide you want to be done, there’s no rule against going back and finishing your meal later. That’s why leftovers are so wonderful!

Fullness cues can be different for everyone but often times they will include:

  • Food not sounding or tasting as good as when you started your meal
  • Stomach expanding
  • Feeling satisfied
  • Feeling more energized
  • No more hunger cues!

If you eat a little too much, that’s completely okay too. Over and under-eating are part of the learning process. Overeating can cause you to feel:

  • Bloated
  • Tired
  • Uncomfortable
  • Nauseous

Practice makes perfect. The only way to truly find your fullness cues is to eat and evaluate how you’re feeling after each meal.

Take Time to Chew Your Food Well

Taking time to chew your food will not only help you slow down to check in with your body, but it can also support your digestion. Have you ever noticed that you don’t feel too great after scarfing down your lunch because you’re pressed for time? A lot of us are very busy and I don’t want to take away the reality of that, but even a few extra minutes can lead to immediate changes. If you can take one break throughout your day or even just five minutes to eat with no distractions, your body will thank you.

Chewing is also a great focal point for your meals if you struggle with multitasking while eating. It can be uncomfortable at first when you’re eating mindfully and don’t know what should be going through your head. Similar to meditation and focusing on your breath, you can eat while focusing on how well you are chewing your food. In college, I had a nutrition lab where we would count how many times we chewed a piece of food. This isn’t necessary of course, but it shows how much goes on without us noticing.

In Conclusion

Mindful eating doesn’t have to be intimidating. There’s no perfect way to do it and little steps can make big improvements in the way you feel on a daily basis. Show yourself a little extra love and start practicing some of these strategies today.

If you’d like extra support along the way, our dietitians are specialized in mindful eating and happy to find a perfect time slot for your free initial session.

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