People in a restaurant with food in front of them; one woman is biting into a piece of break and looks calm.
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A guide to mindful eating

Words by Carlie Barlow, health & wellbeing coach

Our relationship with food is complex. We eat for nourishment, pleasure and even social connection. But in our fast-paced world, eating can become automatic, even mechanical – something we do without really thinking, just because we have to. It’s easy to lose touch with the simple act of eating.

Mindful eating offers a way to reconnect, fostering a healthier and more enjoyable experience with food.

This isn’t about deprivation or fad diets. Mindful eating is about paying close attention to how we eat, savouring each bite, and understanding our body’s hunger and fullness cues. Research shows this practice can improve digestion, regulate appetite and enhance our enjoyment of food.

Discover how to try mindful eating for yourself – and start reaping the benefits.

Getting started: Building the foundation

The journey to mindful eating begins even before we take a bite.

  • Planning and shopping: Instead of impulse buying at the supermarket, plan meals in advance. Create a shopping list that reflects those meals, prioritising healthy and whole foods. This reduces stress and ensures you have ingredients for mindful meals.
  • Tuning into your body: Learn to recognise your body’s hunger cues. Pay attention to physical signs like your stomach growling, low energy, or slight shakiness. Distinguish true hunger from emotional hunger, which often manifests as cravings for specific foods. Similarly, take note of your fullness cues. What does it feel like when you’ve had enough to eat?

Bring your senses to the table

Flat lay of a bowl of food with vibrant colours.

Mindful eating is a multi-sensory experience. Engage all your senses to fully appreciate your food.

  • Visual: As you cook, plate or simply look at your food, observe its vibrant colours, textures, and take in the presentation.
  • Smell: Take a moment to inhale the aroma of spices, herbs or other freshly cooked ingredients.
  • Sounds: Listen to the sounds associated with food: the sizzle of a steak, the crunch of fresh vegetables or the clatter of dishes.
  • Taste: Take note of the different flavours and textures as you chew. Try to identify individual ingredients and seasonings.

Slow down and savour

Our fast-paced lifestyles often lead to rushed meals. Here’s how to slow down and truly enjoy your food:

  • Small bites, thorough chewing: Take smaller bites and chew your food thoroughly. This helps with digestion, allows you to fully taste the flavours, and can even lead to feeling fuller faster.
  • Put down your utensils: Between each bite, put your utensils down. This helps you savour each mouthful and prevents mindless overeating.

Stay present in the moment

A person eating a salad.

Our minds can wander while we eat. Here’s how to stay present and focused on the experience:

  • Focus on your breath: If your mind wanders, gently guide your attention back to the present moment. Focus on your breath, feeling your stomach rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
  • Notice your utensils: Pay attention to the feeling of the utensils in your hand. Notice its weight, texture and temperature.
  • Create the right environment: Minimise distractions by turning off phones and other screens while eating. If possible, find a quiet space where you can fully focus on your meal.

Beyond the plate: Cultivating a long-term practice

Mindful eating is a journey, not a destination. There will be challenges and slip-ups. Here’s how to cultivate a long-term practice:

  • Be kind to yourself: Don’t beat yourself up if you have a setback. Acknowledge it, learn from it, and move forward with self-compassion.
  • Gratitude practice: Take a moment before each meal to appreciate the food in front of you. Acknowledge the work put into growing, preparing and serving it.
  • Mindful snacking: Apply the principles of mindful eating to snacking. Choose single-serving portions and avoid automatically grazing throughout the day.

By incorporating these practices into your routine, you can cultivate a mindful relationship with food, fostering a healthier and more enjoyable way to nourish your body and soul.

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