The health benefits of mindful eating

Learn how mindful eating has the potential to improve both your health and relationship with food.

Mindful eating is a hot topic for many of the people that I provide programming for. What is mindful eating? According to Psychology Today mindful eating helps us learn to hear what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. It helps us become aware of who in the body/heart/mind complex is hungry, and how and what is best to nourish it. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin, creator and medical researcher, responsible for bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of research, says mindful eating:

  • Focuses on the present moment
  • Focuses on the sensory pleasures of eating through practices of eating slowly, chewing food thoroughly and stopping between bites.

Mindful Eating has the potential to improve our health and our relationship with food. The Harvard Health Letter Harvard Health Publishing - Harvard Medical School shares a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by a psychologist at Indiana State University and colleagues at Duke University. The study explored mindful eating techniques for the treatment of binge eating by comparing mindfulness-based therapy to standardized psychoeducational treatment in a controlled group of binge eaters. Results of both treatments showed declines in binging, but the mindfulness-based therapy showed an improvement in people enjoying their food more and struggling less with controlling their eating.

If you are interested in learning how to be more mindful when eating, consider using the Mindful Eating “BASICS”, developed by Dr. Lynn Rossy, Ph.D, Health Psychologist and author of The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution:

  1. Belly Check Before You Eat – take 5 deep breaths. Notice if you have sensations of hunger. How hungry are you? What are you hungry for? Are you bored or stressed?
  2. Assess/Check Out Your Food – What does your food look like? Notice the colors. Does it look appealing? What does it smell like? Where does it come from/is it natural and unprocessed or highly processed? Is this the food you really want?
  3. Slow down (this can help you enjoy your food and be able to tell when the body has had enough) – Try putting your fork or spoon down between bites, pausing and taking a breath between bites, and chewing your food completely.
  4. Investigate your hunger throughout the meal. Keep bringing your attention back to eating, tasting and assessing your hunger and fullness throughout the meal. Half-way through your meal, you may discover you are no longer hungry even though there’s food on your plate. Give yourself permission to stop or to continue eating based on your hunger and fullness cues.
  5. Chew your food thoroughly. Your body will process the food more efficiently. You will notice your hunger dissipating sooner and a sense of fullness will register in the body. The sooner you are aware of satiety, the less likely you will over eat.
  6. Savor your food. Take time to choose food you really like and would satisfy you right now. Pick food that honors your body and your taste buds. Be fully present for the experience of eating and take pleasure in the experience through your senses.

Michigan State University Extension offers programs that focus on mindfulness and mindful eating. Contact your local office for more information.

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