Mindful Eating: 10 Keys

Conscious eating or mindful eating is linked to the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. Find out the keys to mindful eating today.
Mindful Eating: 10 Keys

Written by Daniela Andarcia

Last update: 16 December, 2022

It’s quite common that when we eat, we’re not really aware of the food we’re eating or how or when we do it. It may be that reading, watching television, or being focused on other activities at mealtime will steal our focus, and if we add to this stress and daily worries, it’s very possible that we won’t even remember what we ate in the last hours. That’s why we want to talk to you about the keys to mindful eating.

Mindful eating can help you lose weight, avoid binges, feel better, and control your eating habits. Find out what this concept is and what the keys to mindful eating are so you can have a responsible diet.

What is mindful eating?

Conscious or mindful eating is linked to the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, a meditation practice that allows us to face and recognize both physical sensations and emotions.

According to a study published by the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, mindfulness helps to have a more effective awareness or perception in order to reduce stress and improve vitality and coping. Through mindfulness, certain conditions can be treated, such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders or behaviors, among others.

Therefore, mindful eating consists of being aware of the physical signals, experiences, and emotions that can be manifested when eating. Now, what tips should you follow for a conscious diet? Continue reading to find out.

10 keys to mindful eating

Not all of these tips may work for you, however, try and stick with most of them.

1. You don’t have to empty your plate

Are you one of those who feel full, but still continue to eat until you’ve finished with all the food on your plate? Yes, the fault may not fall entirely on you, because we were taught from childhood not to get up from the table until we’d finished with everything that was on our plate.

Now, you must be aware that this is a bad habit. It’s not at all advisable to ignore the signal that your body is giving you to say that you’ve eaten enough.

Take into account that your body may send you the sign that you’re full before the brain does. This is because the gastrointestinal tract, through the sensory nerves, is what gives the brain the signal that it’s full.

For this reason, it can take a few minutes for the brain to discover that it’s already satiated. Paying attention to what your body says can prevent you from unconsciously overeating.

A plate that's been emptied of food.
Leaving some space in the stomach after main meals can be beneficial.

2. Take small bites and chew well

Avoid stuffing your mouth with food and get the pleasure of savoring your dish. Taking small bites is believed to make you more aware of the flavors that make up the food.

Also, chewing between 20 to 40 times, depending on what you’re eating, can help not only to release and taste more flavors but also allows the digestive system to break down food more easily.

Also consider that by eating slowly, you give your brain time to receive the message from your gut that you’re full.

3. Learn to discern if hunger is emotional or a necessity

Many times, we can feel hunger manipulated by feelings. Stress, frustration, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and even boredom can cause you to eat a lot more without actually needing it.

Practicing mindfulness provides the ability to stabilize emotions and eat only when necessary. According to studies published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine and Behavior Therapy, knowing how to discern when hunger signals are out of need and not guided by emotions can help reduce sugar intake and help you lose weight.

Controlling food consumption during an attack of anger or anxiety is part of mindful eating.

4. Cook consciously

Waiting until you’re hungry, searching the cupboard, and putting anything you find into your mouth makes you more prone to eating unhealthy foods, trans fats, or sugary foods, and being less satisfied than if you plan your meals and snacks.

Being aware and thinking about what you’ll eat during the week will help you to have more control, and balance, and eat more nutritious meals, which will transform in the short term into a better mood, better mental health, and better quality of sleep.

5. Serve your portions

Avoid eating straight from the bag, box, or packaging by serving your portions in a bowl or on a plate. Otherwise, you’ll have no control and it will be easier for you to overdo it because you can’t see how much you’re eating. It’s likely that your subconscious is telling you that you must eat everything that’s inside the bag; the brain is programmed to do so.

6. Avoid eating when you’re distracted

Has it ever happened to you that when you go to the movies, you have your box of popcorn and a glass of soda, and long before the movie ends, you put your hand in the box and it’s empty? You’re going to sip some soda, but your glass is empty as well. What’s the first thing you ask yourself?

Undoubtedly, the question arises as to when it was that you finished it off and, if you’re sharing it with a companion, it’s very likely that you’ll end up blaming them. The truth is that when we’re distracted, it’s quite easy to ignore the body’s signals about food and other needs. When it comes to eating, you must avoid multitasking.

Get away from the TV, phone, or newspaper, and just focus on eating, tasting the food, and enjoying company, if you have it.

7. Reflect before eating

Noticing your state of mind before the first bite or even before preparing the meal will help you to be aware of what’s happening. At the same time, connect with what you’re going to ingest.

Many eat without wondering where the food comes from beyond its packaging. When you pause and think about all the people who were involved so you could eat that food, from who produced it to who distributed it, it may help you to be more aware and grateful for your surroundings.

A woman eating yogurt.
Being aware of what, how, and when to eat is one of the fundamental keys to mindful eating.

8. Eat when you have an appetite

Don’t wait until you feel like you could eat an elephant. When your hunger becomes fierce, you tend to eat faster, chew less, and even gorge yourself on food because the first priority is to fill the void before enjoying the dish. If you do this, you can have stomach problems, poor digestion, and problems sleeping and digesting food.

9. Put down your cutlery

A good technique is to put down your cutlery after each bite, which reduces the instinct to introduce more food without having finished swallowing what’s already in your mouth. Focus on chewing and enjoying your food.

10. Allow yourself to enjoy the silence

From time to time, it would be beneficial for you to eat in silence. It’s normal for thoughts to come to your mind and begin to wander. If this happens, don’t repress them, let them pass, and allow yourself to enjoy the flavors of your dish. By being aware of the tastes and smells of your food, you’ll fully appreciate the moment.

Don’t shy away from chatting with friends and family if you’re with them, and of course, always avoid looking at your cell phone while you eat.

What to remember about mindful eating?

Mindful eating is practicing mindfulness, and according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, this type of meditation could help lower stress levels, reduce cortisone, and lower belly fat. There are several tips that can help carry out mindful eating correctly:

  • Take the time to chew.
  • Eat in silence.
  • Eat slowly and don’t gorge yourself on food. It’s best to put small portions in your mouth.
  • It doesn’t matter if you leave food on the plate. Stop eating as soon as you feel full.
  • Avoid distractions like reading the newspaper or looking at your cell phone, for example.
  • Focus on how you feel when you’re eating.
  • Ask yourself if you’re eating because your body asks for it or because you’re being manipulated by some feeling or emotion.
  • Enjoy the flavor of every bite.

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  • Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 57(1), 35–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00573-7
  • Ahima, R. S., & Antwi, D. A. (2008). Brain regulation of appetite and satiety. Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America, 37(4), 811–823. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecl.2008.08.005
  • Dalen, J., Smith, B. W., Shelley, B. M., Sloan, A. L., Leahigh, L., & Begay, D. (2010). Pilot study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): weight, eating behavior, and psychological outcomes associated with a mindfulness-based intervention for people with obesity. Complementary therapies in medicine, 18(6), 260–264. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008
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