Updated: Oct 11, 2021
More and more people are using mindfulness for well-being with downloads of mindfulness apps like Headspace and Calm surging by 2 million during the first month of the pandemic (1)!
So what is "Mindful Eating"?
Mindful eating is an approach to food that focuses on being fully present while you’re eating. It also increases awareness of your thoughts, senses and feelings during and after you eat.
It is clinically proven to lead to healthier eating habits and to a more positive relationship with food. In Germany and Canada it's even included in their dietary guidelines as a behavioural principle to promote overall health (2,3).
Emerging research tells us that mindful eating for the general population can help by:
Better management of food portions as it translates into a better awareness of hunger and fullness feelings. This can lead to a lower intake of food at the present eating time (4-8).
Deriving more pleasure from food and being satisfied with smaller amounts (9-12).
Promoting a positive relationship with food by making deliberate and conscious food choices (13-15).
So why be more mindful when eating?
Mindful eating opens up an opportunity to appreciate food more and make a better connection with it. Some studies suggest that mindful eating can help support emotional & binge eating by promoting a healthier relationship with food.
Eating mindfully may also help regulate appetite, aid digestion and make eating an enjoyable and pleasurable experience. Mindful eating is not about restricting yourself, it is about enjoying and appreciating food. Some people may find that eating more mindfully leads to weight-loss as they have better awareness of food portions.
If you think mindful eating is something you would like to try you can get your free downloadable guide below with ten top tips and a plan to get you started.
This approach may not be suitable for those with an active eating disorder. Mindful eating can lead to justification of under-eating and can be harmful to those recovering from eating disorders and disordered eating. Mindful eating is of limited use to people with Anorexia, because of their need for distraction from, rather than increased awareness of eating behaviours.
(1) Sensor Tower Store intelligence report available here: https://sensortower.com/solutions/store-intelligence
(3) https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/ (accessed Aug 2020)
(4) Oldham-Cooper et al. Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 93(2):308-313.
(5) Higgs S. Manipulations of attention during eating and their effects on later snack intake. Appetite. 2015; 92287-294.
(6) Mittal D et al. Snacking while watching TV impairs food recall and promotes food intake on a later TV free test meal. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 2011; 25(6):871-877.
(7) Higgs S & Donohoe JE. Focusing on food during lunch enhances lunch memory and decreases later snack intake. Appetite. 2011; 57(1):202-206.
(8) Robinson E et al. Eating ‘attentively’ reduces later energy consumption in overweight and obese females. Br J Nutr. 2014; 112(4):657-661.
(9) Gravel K et al. Effect of sensory-based intervention on the increased use of food-related descriptive terms among restrained eaters. Food Quality and Preference. 2014; 32:271-276.
(10)Hong PY et al. Mindfulness and Eating: An Experiment Examining the Effect of Mindful Raisin Eating on the Enjoyment of Sampled Food. Mindfulness. 2014; 5(1):80-87.
(11) Arch JJ et al. Enjoying food without caloric cost: The impact of brief mindfulness on laboratory eating outcomes. Behav Res Ther. 2016; 79:23-34.
(12) Cornil Y & Chandon P. Pleasure as a substitute for size: how multisensory imagery can make people happier with smaller food portions. J Marketing Research. 2015; 53(5):847-864.
(13) Hendrickson KL & Rasmussen EB. Mindful eating reduces impulsive food choice in adolescents and adults. Health Psychol. 2016.
(14) Camillieri et al. Cross-cultural validity of the intuitive eating scale-2. Psychometric evaluation in a sample of the general French population. Appetite. 2015; 8434-42.
(15) Gravel K et al. Effect of sensory-based intervention on the increased use of food-related descriptive terms among restrained eaters. Food Quality and Preference. 2014; 32:271-276