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What is Mindful Eating?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Mindful eating is a practice which is supposed to encourage people to think about the food they consume, and to take the time to savor their food. Some people use mindful eating as a weight loss technique, but it can also be used to reinforce a general lifestyle of mindfulness. People approach mindful eating from a wide range of perspectives, ranging from Buddhism to membership in Slow Food International.

The basic idea behind mindful eating is that many people regard food as a chore, rather than something to be enjoyed, and they wedge meals into their lifestyles, rather than taking the time to enjoy them. By savoring food, people have a chance to enjoy it more fully, and to think consciously about what they are eating, rather than mindlessly shoveling in whatever is available. Many people believe that mindful eating has health and spiritual benefits.

When people practice mindful eating, they concentrate on what they are eating, rather than eating as they watch television, read the news, drive, or perform other tasks. They take the time to fully chew and enjoy each bite, reflecting on the quality of the food and thinking about the textures, flavors, and scents they are experiencing.

One goal with mindful eating is often to eat less, because this technique allows people to respond much more quickly to satiety cues. Many people also try to eat specifically when they are hungry, rather than at random times during the day, or at scheduled meal hours. Mindful eating also tends to promote a healthier diet, since thinking about what one consumes tends to drive a desire to eat more healthy, natural foods.

A basic mindful eating exercise involves eating an apple. Starting with the first bite, the participant is asked to chew carefully with his or her eyes closed, and to think about the experience. Reflecting on the texture and flavor of the apple is encouraged, along with thinking about memories the apple might bring up. After chewing and reflecting for a moment, the participant swallows, take a breath, and then takes another bite, repeating the process.

Mindful eating certainly encourages people to eat more slowly, which can reduce health problems associated with eating quickly, such as intestinal gas. It also tends to reduce the amount of food consumed, which some people view as a positive health benefit. For people engaged in spiritual practices which promote mindfulness, mindful eating is also supposed to help with meditation and mindful choices beyond the dinner table.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon89230 — On Jun 09, 2010

This article reminds me of something I once heard. Often as we eat, we put a bite in our mouth and then get the next bite ready, maybe even before we have started chewing. That way of eating is certainly not mindful!

By anon89219 — On Jun 09, 2010

Shouldn't all human activities be mindful? We have this big brain-it should be used more to help us get along without so many mistakes and troubles.

D.W. Bales, M.D. retired

By laluna — On Jun 09, 2010

I definitely agree that mindful eating is very important. From personal experience, when I eat in a hurry, or do other things when eating, I will end up eating more.

Eating should be a time to slow down, enjoy the food, and nourish our bodies. It certainly should not be done while multitasking.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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