How can I practice mindful eating?

William B. Salt II., MD
How to practice mindful eating:
  • Assess how hungry you are on a scale of 1 (ravenous) to 7 (stuffed).
  • Eat slowly; savor your food.
  • Put your fork down and breathe between bites.
  • Ask yourself how much you really need (for example, a hunger for something sweet or sour or salty can often be satisfied with a small morsel).
  • Check back on your hunger level.
  • Stop when you start to feel full (ideally about 5 ½ on the 7-point scale).
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It is important to be aware of what and when you are eating. Sometimes we do not realize we are consuming food, which can result in unwanted calories. Avoid eating in front of the TV or while busy with other activities. Pay attention to what you are eating and fully enjoy the taste and smells of what you are eating. Eat slowly so your brain can get the message that your stomach is full. When cooking, be mindful of too much "sampling" of the dish before you sit down to fully enjoy the meal on a plate.

Brooke Randolph
Marriage & Family Therapy
To practice eating with mindfulness, you must remove all distractions and may have to even eat alone; the only thing you should be looking at is your plate and utensils. The only thing you should be hearing is your utensils on the plate and yourself chewing your food. Tune into every detail of the experience of the presentation, cutting your food into bites, tasting and feeling the food in your mouth, and the experience of your stomach filling. What do you smell? What do you see? How does the food feel on your tongue? What is its temperature? How much air space is left in your mouth while you are chewing? How many times are you chewing? Are you savoring your food? If you are entirely appreciating the food that you are eating, you will not feel the need to eat more than necessary.

There are many ways to practice mindful eating. If you don't know where to start, just begin by taking a "mindful bite." Break out of old, automatic habits by tuning into what you are eating. In other words, you can help yourself avoid mindlessly popping food into your mouth by truly tasting it. When you eat in a very unaware, detached way, you don't enjoy it and sometimes can unintentionally overeat. Use the 4S's Model: Sip, Smell, Slow, Savor. This is a good first step.

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing
Mindful eating requires you to stop eating out of old habits.
  • Choose a designated place for eating with no distractions. No TV, no books or newspapers.
  • Take time to eat slowly and savor every bite. Put your fork down with every bite.
  • Drink a glass of water before starting your meal or snack to help you determine the difference between hunger and thirst.
  • Practice portion control. Use a small lunch plate instead of a dinner plate. Buy some portion control devices if you aren’t sure of the normal portion size. Remember a serving of meat is only the size of a deck of cards.
  • Take a walk after dinner instead of dessert.
  • Practice substituting healthy stress relievers for food to break the link with emotional eating.
  • Make sure to eat all of your meals and snacks to avoid hunger and binging.
  • Seek help and utilize your resources.
Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
Start by penciling in one mindful meal a week, then gradually expand to other meals. Skip distractions like watching TV or reading the paper. Set the table nicely. As you eat, slow down and truly savor your food, enjoying taste, texture, colors, scent, and sound. Notice how your body feels when hungry and satiated. Stop eating when you start to feel full. Try practicing mindful eating with snacks and the occasional dessert, too -- you'll be amazed at how satisfying a handful of mixed nuts, a few spoonfuls of sorbet, or even a single square of chocolate can be.

Peeling and eating an orange offers an excellent example. For the first few moments, just concentrate on your breath moving in and out of your nostrils. Look at the orange, turning it over in your hands. Run your fingertips over its bumpy texture. Absorb its vibrant color and light citrus scent. As you start peeling it, engage your senses fully. Note the slight spray of citrus oil as your fingers dig into and peel back the protective skin and soft white pith. How does the orange feel and smell now? Are you salivating? When you put a slice of it in into your mouth and break through the thin membrane into its juicy center, what sensations do you feel?

Try not to hurry through one mouthful of orange to get to the next. Slow down and stay in the moment. Before you swallow each portion of the orange, be aware of the rising desire to do so. Then note how it feels when you swallow. Throughout the experience, remain fully aware. How much are you eating? How do you feel physically and psychologically before, during, and after eating?
Robert DeVito
To Practice Mindful Eating Today:
  • Slow down while you eat
  • Be more aware of sensations (hear, touch, taste, smell, see)
  • Notice tasting each and every bite
  • Be aware of what your mind is doing (obsessing, worrying, craving, etc…) and where those feelings might be coming from
  • Be in the moment, stay focused on what is happening right NOW
  • Pay attention to how your hunger and fullness and how they change with each bite

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.