Mindful Eating – What is it and why is it important?

by | Nutrition Questions Answered, Well Balanced Wisdom

Imagine sitting down at your team meeting conference table at 8:30 am. You smell a lovely free buffet-style breakfast and can’t wait to dig in. Now you are told to get your breakfast plate together and sit back down but don’t start eating yet. This is how my (Lucy’s) first experience with mindful eating began. It was an interactive demonstration that our former director graciously coordinated for the Nutrition team.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting in front of my hot oatmeal thinking “okay lady, my oats are getting cold…” We were told to close our eyes and assess how hungry we feel on a scale of 1-10… and the oats got colder. Then, we were instructed to look at the food and smell it. Decide what we liked about the food on our plate (or bowl in my case). Now I’m thinking “I don’t care! I just want to eat.” Finally, she gave us permission to eat our first bite. Only one bite then set the utensil down to notice the taste, texture, temperature, etc. 

All the while, we were sitting in the dark and not allowed to speak to our neighbors or have any distractions. We continued at this glacier pace of eating for the next 15 minutes – in dark silence. After about 7 minutes I got on my iPhone under the table and posted on Facebook that clearly, mindful eating was a new form of torture that I would not recommend.

For a bit of background, up to this point in my life, most of my meals were eaten while on the way to school or work, sitting at my desk, in front of the TV, or while socializing with my friends or family. So the idea of getting quiet and tuning into my hunger was completely foreign to me!

Fast forward several years, many books, and self-exploration later, I’ve come a long way. Since then, I have adopted my own mindful eating habits that are much less involved than the demonstration and can be done more easily in everyday life.

What is Mindful Eating?

It’s more than just slowing down. Eating mindfully is about awareness and intention. It calls for deliberate engagement on our part. It is making thoughtful decisions on what we gather, shop for, and select. The absence of mindful eating is eating with distraction, on autopilot, or letting your environment be the sole influence for your food choices. When we learn how to be mindful eaters, it allows us to make meaningful, clear choices about the food we’re eating and why.

What are the Core Principles of Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating can be a challenging topic for a lot of people, mainly because they are unsure of exactly what mindful eating means. The core principles of mindful eating are simple:

  • Bring awareness to nourishing properties of food through the process of food preparation and consumption
  • Select enjoyable and nutritious foods
  • Acknowledge food preferences non-judgmentally and give permission to enjoy fun foods
  • Recognize and honor physical hunger and satiety cues
  • Use wisdom to guide eating decisions

Mindless Eating

You can’t talk about mindful eating without discussing mindLESS eating. Mindless eating involves looking at environmental cues and triggers around eating and recognizing that you are often eating on autopilot. Without awareness and intention, your choices can easily be influenced by the outside world. This happens a lot when you are…

  • eating on the run (in the car)
  • eating while distracted (TV, phone, computer)
  • eating from large plates and/or buffet style
  • alcohol consumption and eating

Mindful eating involves making adjustments to avoid these triggers that may compel us to eat an unbalanced diet, eat too much, or both.

How do you practice mindful eating?

Here are Well Balanced Nutrition’s favorite tips for overcoming mindless eating using tools and adjustments you can make in your daily life.

  • Sit and savor your food – try not to eat standing up or at the counter. Make a true effort to sit at the table while eating.
  • Eat off of a plate [not out of the bag] – this will help you recognize and enjoy the food you’re eating by seeing what food is truly in front of you.
  • Do your best to avoid electronics when eating – focus on your meal by putting away the cell phone or TV – at least for a few minutes.
  • Eat from smaller plates or start with smaller portions. You can always refill after a mindful check-in with yourself.
  • Stock your environment with Well Balanced choices that you’re excited to eat.

How to become a more mindful eater? 

It takes time and practice. Let us guide you on that journey with individual sessions. We’ll share strategies, help you take action, and keep you moving forward. Book a clarity call to get started today.


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