What is Mindfulness?
The term mindfulness refers to practices that enhance a greater awareness of our mind by focusing on our thoughts, sensations, environment, and thus our overall well-being. This practice has become popularized through recent trends and growing interests for meditation. Research has shown effectiveness for the consistent practice of mindfulness in stress reduction and symptoms of anxiety and other mood disorders to positively impact mental health.1
Mindfulness and Intuitive Eating
The practice and concept of mindfulness tie well into all aspects of our well-being: mental, emotional, and physical. It is no surprise, then, that mindfulness greatly impacts the health of our bodies.
Intuitive eating is essentially the practice of mindfulness in our eating behaviors. While it sounds simple in theory, it is a challenge to incorporate into a daily habit for most of us. As a graduate student with a busy schedule, I oftentimes find myself eating foods out of an emotional response (usually stress) or in a hurry. If I am interacting with people during my meal times or engaging in another activity such as watching a video, my attention is diverted from the experience of consuming the food in front of me. Quite frankly, I have developed a habit of using food as a coping mechanism for comfort in times of high stress or sadness. The psychology of people’s relationships with foods become very complex, and just like me, each person has their own history and on-going journey with foods.
Why Practice Mindful Eating
Research supports the idea that structured dieting does not aid in weight-loss or maintenance in the long-term.2 Fad diets are appealing as our culture prizes fast and dramatic results, idolizing an unattainable standard of beauty and body type as portrayed in media outlets. More so, diets harbor an environment for a negative or unhealthy relationship with food and may cause mental distress or disordered eating patterns.
When mindfulness was incorporated into obesity interventions, there has been statistically significant decreases in weight, binge eating, overeating, perceived stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms to name a few.3,4 Practicing mindfulness and intuitive eating could have physical and psychological benefits, as well.
Steps to Practice Intuitive Eating
Some basic guidelines to mindfulness and intuitive eating include removing all distractions and concentrating on your body before, during, and after you eat. For instance, taking smaller bites and chewing slowly while taking note of satiety, hunger or fullness cues.2
You may ask yourself questions such as:
- How does this food taste?
- Why am I eating this food?
- Do I know what is in my food?
- Am I eating food that will help nourish my body?
- Am I eating out of an emotional response or boredom?
The Center for Mindful Eating website has created an elaborate guideline if you are interested in learning more.5
Teaching Your Kids
So, I’ve convinced you to practice mindful eating, but what about the well-being of your kids? Teaching children to practice mindful eating could be challenging, even more than adults. Research also shows benefits for mindfulness interventions on youth and adolescents such as improved attitudes and behaviors related to food and decreased metabolic risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes.6 It can be vital to teach your kids at a young age how to have a healthier attitude towards foods and habits that allow them to be more mindful of what they are putting into their growing bodies, as these practices may carry over to adulthood.
The Super Kids Nutrition website gives some useful tips for parents to teach their kids mindful eating.7 Most of these tips involve setting a good example of mindful eating habits as parents to your children and allowing kids to have a level of responsibility and freedom in meal times such as choosing how much to eat and being a part of the meal preparation.
Whether it be for yourself or your family, it is never too late to incorporate mindfulness and intuitive eating habits as a part of a healthy lifestyle for your overall well-being.
- Hofmann SG, Sawyer AT, Witt AA, Oh D. The Effect Of Mindfulness-Based Therapy On Anxiety And Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2010;78(2):169-183.
- Mathieu J. What Should You Know About Mindful And Intuitive Eating? Journal Of The American Dietetic Association. 2009;109(12):1982.
- Dalen J, Smith BW, Shelley BM, Sloan AL, Leahigh L, Begay D. Pilot Study: Mindful Eating And Living (MEAL): Weight, Eating Behavior, And Psychological Outcomes Associated With A Mindfulness-Based Intervention For People With Obesity. Complementary Therapies In Medicine. 2010;18(6):260-264.
- Smith BW, Shelley B, Leahigh L, Vanleit B. A Preliminary Study Of The Effects Of A Modified Mindfulness Intervention On Binge Eating. Http://Dxdoiorg/101177/1533210106297217. 2016.
- The Center For Mindful Eating – Principles Of Mindful Eating. 2018; Https://Www.Thecenterformindfuleating.Org/Principles-Mindful-Eating/.
- Pivarunas B, Kelly NR, Pickworth CK, Et Al. Mindfulness And Eating Behavior In Adolescent Girls At Risk For Type 2 Diabetes. Int J Eat Disord. 2015;48(6):563-569.
- Angeles UIL. Top Ten Mindful Eating Steps To Teach Kids. Superkids Nutrition. 2017.