Written by Talia Cecchele
Eating is one of life's greatest pleasures and should be enjoyed. As children, we didn’t have to make many decisions when it came to food, we ate intuitively; asking for food if we were hungry and stopping eating when we were full. Then somewhere along the way we started to eat to time, when food was available, out of habit or eating to manage emotions. We lost touch with the food and way in which we were eating.
Why do we need to eat mindfully?
As adults leading busy lives, so many of us eat in a rush, gulping down food and not even noticing where it all went, let alone the taste or texture of it. We eat while multi-tasking, replying to emails and scrolling through other people’s delicious meals. Sometimes we don’t even sit down to eat. Eating in this way adds stress to our body and can slow or shut down digestion which can lead to abdominal pain, bloating, wind and feelings of guilt (why did I eat that much?!).
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a skill born out of the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. When practised, it can help people to improve their relationship with food, break free from diet culture and food rules, and begin to eat in a flexible way. Research has shown that mindful eating can also help control urges to over-eat or engage in binge eating and assists with weight management and digestion. Mindful eating is not a diet. It is a way of eating.
Mindful eating consists of 5 key principles:
1. Having the freedom to eat all foods (judgement free)
2. Being present while eating including emotional, physical and mental connections.
3. Being in tune and honouring your hunger and fullness cues
4. Being aware of external or non-hungry cues (mindless eating) such as eating out of habit, boredom or stress
5. Having food-body congruence (choosing food that is pleasing for both your body and mind)
How do I eat mindfully?
Eating mindfully is a skill, and therefore takes some practice. Here are my tips for mindful eating:
Before reaching for food or preparing your meal ask yourself: “Am I hungry?” “Am I thirsty?” and “What do I really feel like?” Give yourself permission to eat food that you want and enjoy.
Sit down to eat.
Don’t eat while you’re standing, walking around or driving. Put your food on a proper plate (your snacks too if you can) and sit at a table. This helps with being present at the meal.
Take 3 deep, slow breaths before eating.
This switches your body from a stressed and distracted state (fight or flight mode) to being relaxed and focused (rest and digest mode). This will help to reduce food anxieties and aide digestion.
Eat slowly and chew your food.
Not only does this help to savour the taste of the food but also with digestion (digestion begins in the mouth after all). Aim to chew each mouthful at least 10-20 times.
Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls.
This gives you time to tune in to what you’re eating, enjoy the conversation (if eating with others) and the meal. The food isn’t going to run away.
Connect with how the food makes you feel.
Are you starting to feel full? Do you feel energised? Or do you feel tired, bloated and uncomfortable? Eating mindfully will help you to learn what foods make you feel good. Learn to tune in to these sensations by using the Hunger Scale, download our Recovery Kickstarter Guide for free to try this out.
There will be more food later.
Don’t feel like you have to scrape everything off your plate. If you are hungry later you can go back for more or have a snack. Don’t be fearful of snacking. Everyone is unique and thrives off different ways of eating.
Is mindful eating different from intuitive eating?
Intuitive eating and mindful eating are terms which often get used interchangeably but they are actually slightly different concepts. Eating mindfully is an important part of the intuitive eating framework, which includes honouring the body's hunger and fullness signals. However, intuitive eating focuses on an anti-diet approach to nutrition, health and eating - not just to mealtimes.
If you need a little inspiration to get you started, try a mindful eating exercise or download our free Food & Thought Diary to tune in to your thoughts and feelings around meal times. You can find so many more online or if you need individualised advice and guidance book in with one of our registered dietitians.
At TC Nutrition, we can support you to become an intuitive, mindful eater with a healthy relationship with food. Get in touch to book your free 15 minute discovery call with one of our dietitians.
Lead Dietitian & Founder
Talia Cecchele is a Highly Specialist Eating Disorder Dietitian and Founder of Talia Cecchele Nutrition, a virtual clinic of specialist eating disorder dietitians. Talia is passionate about supporting people to ditch the extremes of dieting, bring balance back to nutrition and find food freedom by overcoming food rules. You can follow Talia on Instagram @tcnutrition for more content and resources.
Talia Cecchele Nutrition is a team of registered dietitians that specialise in eating disorder recovery, disordered eating, digestive issues and sports nutrition. We aim to bring balance back to nutrition, help you to break free from food rules and find food freedom. We offer virtual consultations and group programs so whether you are based in London, the United Kingdom or around the world we would love to support you. To enquire about a private consultation please fill out a contact form.