A Beginner’s Guide to Mindful Eating

Find out how to consciously eat

Words by Lisa Hughes
October 12th, 2016

So you’ve started meditating, you’re doing your best to ‘be present’, you’ve downloaded the Headspace app and you’re feeling a little more zen on your daily commute instead of tearing your hair out in traffic– what next? Mindful eating, that’s what.

If you’re thinking ‘oh no, not another diet fad’, hold your horses. Mindful eating is pretty much the opposite of a diet; it’s all about how you eat, not what you’re putting into your mouth. Also known as intuitive or conscious eating, mindful eating strives to give you a greater connection to food. It’s about the whole experience of eating, right down to every crunch and is the polar opposite of shoving last night’s leftovers into your mouth and barely chewing while scrolling through your Instagram feed. On a superficial level, eating slower and savouring each bite can actually make you eat less, too, which is probably why A-listers like Goldie Hawn, Gisele and Oprah are fans.

Here’s 5 ways to have a more mindful mealtime:

1. Breathe.

Like all things mindfulness-related, the first thing you need to do before you pop that Marks & Spencer ready meal into the microwave is take a few deep conscious breaths. Even if you’re hangry and ready to eat a small child, take a deep breath and encourage your body to relax and be present. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry. Or are you thirsty? Are you eating because you’re bored or just gagging to get away from the desk for 5 seconds? What are you really craving? Listen to your body – not your mind – and eat accordingly.

2. Sit down and turn off your phone.

No more hovering over a desk, gobbling lunch from a takeout box as you run back to work or standing in the kitchen shovelling food into your mouth. Eating is important so sit down and treat it as such. This means switching off your phone and computer. All you have to do is eat. Think about what’s on your plate, savour each bite and enjoy the silence. No distractions, just food, food, glorious food.

3. Slow it down.

Lunch isn’t the Grand National. There are no awards for Quickest to Clear A Plate – and your digestion certainly won’t thank you for it. A good tip for this step is to use your other, non-writing hand to pick up food as this will naturally slow the whole process down. Try to put your fork down between bites and sip water. Give yourself time between each bite to appreciate what’s on your plate. Finally, use a nice plate – or at least a real one – and not a takeaway carton as this reinforces the idea that a meal is an occasion, not a 5 second fork dash to your mouth.

4. Make each bite count.

Think about each bite, what it tastes like, what you like and don’t like and really savour each sweet and sour sensation you experience. It’s not just about taste – how does your food look? Is it appealing? What colours strike you most? How does it smell? This simple practice will encourage you to seek out new food and flavours and to see (or should we say ‘taste’) another side of food you take for granted.

5. Persist, persist, persist.

Like all types of mindful practice, it won’t be easy and your mind will keep straying to that dress you want in Zara or that guy you think you like from Tinder but keep at it. Start with just one meal a day in silence. When your mind starts to stray, remember to slowly keep bringing your attention back to eating, tasting, and checking in with your body to see how satisfied you are. Once you get the hang of it, it’ll be like falling in love with food all over again.