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Mindful Eating: What is it?

Mindful Eating.jpg

Eating has become a race in our society.  We want to get it done faster so that we can get back to work, get the kids to practice, or just simply get it over with.  We grab breakfast on the run.  We take lunch to go.

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In fact, many of us have forgotten that eating is more than just a necessary fuel, it’s also for nourishment.  It enhances mental acuity.  It helps keep our emotional integrity.  Food play a role in just about every aspect of our lives whether we want it to or not.

Adults spend only about 1 hour and 12 minutes per day eating.  Kids are just as rushed and eat in only 11 minutes during school lunch period.

But it’s not just the speed of our eating that’s the problem.  We’re a nation of multi-taskers.  We eat while watching TV, reading a book or magazine, responding to email… and even driving!  Today, upwards of 66% of Americans eat dinner in front of the TV.

With food at the center of American culture, it’s important to look at not only what we eat, but how we eat.  Especially since scientists are beginning to see how complex the mind-body connection is in eating behavior.

What is Mindless Eating?

Mindless eating is eating without awareness.  Like when you munch on a snack in front of the TV and all of a sudden it’s gone  – and you don’t remember finishing it.  It turns out that when we eat mindlessly, or when our mind it ‘tuned-out’ during meal time, the digestive process is 30% to 40% less effective.  This can contribute to gas, bloating, and bowel irregularities.

Am I hungry?

The brain and central nervous system receive signals from body when food is needed or desired.  These signals may have several different triggers, from actual hunger to our mood.  Once eating is underway, our brain monitors the signals coming in from the body to determine when we’re about to be full, and will send out a signal to stop eating.

However, if the mind is multi-tasking during eating, these critical signals that regulate food intake may not be received by the brain.

If the brain doesn’t received certain signals during eating, such as the sensation of taste and satisfaction, it may fail to register the event as ‘eating’.  This scenario can lead to the brain continuing to send out additional signals of hunger, increasing the chance that you’ll over eat.

What is Mindful Eating?

Eating mindfully means eating with awareness.  Deliberately paying attention to not just what’s on your plate, but the experience of eating.  Being present for each sensation: food preparation, the colors on your plate, the aroma, the taste, and even the swallowing.  


It’s also paying attention to our body’s response to the food: Where are we hungry in the body?  Where do we feel satisfied? What does full feel like?

To be fully in the moment you also have to acknowledge what emotions come up as well.  Do you like the food?  Are you eating it only because it’s ‘healthy’?  Do you feel guilty for eating it?  Acknowledging these responses without judgement , no matter what they are, can help free you from the control food may have over you.

It’s important to avoid criticizing yourself when eating, or to compare yourself to someone else.

The goal is to give yourself permission to eat something, eat it mindfully, and then give yourself permission to stop when you feel satisfied... which is the sensation just before you feel full.

How can you tell when you're Satisfied?

"Hara hachi bu". This is a wonderful old Japanese phrase that means to 'Eat until 80% full'. This is a more visual way to think about stopping when you are satisfied. But how can you figure out what that point is?


It takes practice and time to become realigned with your body's cues. Start gauging how you feel throughout the day as well as during a meal. 

Before, during, and after a meal, what does your body feel like when:

  • You are Starving. Are you dizzy? Crabby? Unable to concentrate? This is way past the point when you should have eaten. You would likely overeat if you started a meal now.

  • You are Hungry. Are your hunger signals staying longer and are harder to ignore? You are physiologically ready to eat. Waiting too long after this point to eat may lead to over eating.

  • You are no longer hungry but not yet satisfied. You could probably still eat a little more. 

  • You are satisfied. This just before you start to feel too full. You are comfortable here and your body no longer needs additional calories.

  • You are full. At this point, you have eaten more than your body needs.

  • You are stuffed. Your clothes feel tight. Your body feels uncomfortable. You know you've eaten too much.


By slowing down your meals and paying attention to your body, you will begin to understand when you are 'satisfied' during a meal. This is the point you should push your plate away and feel good about how much you've consumed. 


Listening to our bodies and sensing our satisfaction is something we as adults have lost along the way.  Food plays such a huge role in our society and lives that we’ve learned to over-eat rather than enjoy the ambiance and companionship first and foremost. 

It actually takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full.  Twenty full minutes.  So if you wolf down your food in less than 10 without acknowledging or experiencing it, then you may eat more than your body needs.

Eating slower and without distraction is the key to mindful eating.  Simply by thinking more fully about your meal, and all the emotions and senses that go into it, you’ll be more likely to eat without guilt, enjoy the experience, and make more nourishing decisions for your body.

Mindful Eating.jpg

Mindful Eating: What is it?: Eating has become a race in our society.  We want to get it done faster so that we can get back to work, get the kids to practice, or just simpl...​

To eat is a necessity: but to eat intelligently is an art.
— La Rouchefoucald

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