Put simply, mindful eating is about eating with more awareness. This method of eating aims to stop mindless eating behaviors like unconsciously popping food into your mouth while watching TV or devouring a carton of ice cream to ease stress.
Studies show that reducing these behaviors can have a significant impact on improving your health, weight, and reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
A 2010 study “Pilot Study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, Eating Behavior, and Psychological Outcomes Associated with a Mindfulness-Based Intervention for People with Obesity” had participants do 6 weeks of training in mindfulness meditation and mindful eating. The obese individuals who participated in the study “showed statistically significant increases in measures of mindfulness and cognitive restraint around eating, and statistically significant decreases in weight, eating disinhibition, binge eating, depression, perceived stress, physical symptoms, negative affect, and C-reactive protein.”
Here are some tips for mindful eating and what to do if mindful eating isn’t quite enough.
Give thanks for your food, savor the meal, and be mindful.
- Give thanks, say a prayer, or do a blessing.
- Slow down and savor the flavors, the textures, the aromas, and the experience of eating.
- Be mindful and think about the food you’re eating. I once did a mindfulness exercise where we were guided through the experience of eating a single raisin over the course of five minutes. It is something that will stay with me always. First we looked at the raisin, then we touched it and smelled it. Then we put it in our mouths and very, very slowly chewed it, attending to its texture, juices, and sweetness. This is such a contrast to the way we usually gulp our food down.
Sit down to eat and make it a family gathering
- Sit down to eat, and eat at the table with family and friends, not in front of the TV.
- Keep the conversation positive and light.
- I love this idea offered by fellow nutritionist and good friend Robin Nielsen: She suggests that just lighting a candle can be calming and put you in a digestive mode.
Don’t eat when you’re highly stressed or anxious
- Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression reduces your production of hydrochloric acid and lowers levels of secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), an antibody that plays a critical role in immunity in the gastrointestinal tract. This will impair your digestion. And because poor digestion leads to nutrient depletions that make it more difficult to handle stress, it creates a vicious cycle.
Address possible neurotransmitter deficiencies
If you’ve tried all of the above and are still finding it challenging to stay on track then the next step is to address possible neurotransmitter deficiencies.
- If you have afternoon or evening cravings for carbohydrates and gluten-containing grains, you may have low serotonin. Tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan may help.
- If you crave comfort foods like bread, cookies, or ice cream, they may be providing an endorphin rush. Taking D-phenylalanine (DPA) may help.
- If you overeat bread, cereal, pasta, or dairy to calm down, or drink wine to de-stress you may have low levels of GABA. Taking supplemental GABA may help you relax and experience fewer anxiety-related cravings.
- If you’re prone to low blood sugar and have intense cravings for something sweet or starchy, glutamine really helps, as it plays a role in moderating blood sugar levels.
- If you crave something sweet for a quick energy fix, you may have low levels of catecholamines. Taking supplemental tyrosine may help.
The amino acid questionnaire from The Antianxiety Food Solution can help you figure out which area to focus on.
Do you want to learn more about mindful eating? Join us on the Mindful Eating Summit
Join me and 20 other speakers on the Eating Mindfully Summit August 21-28 with my friend and colleague, Dr. Susan Albers, author of “Eating Mindfully” and Cleveland Clinic psychologist. This summit will teach you how to boost your nutrition, end mindless overeating and stop feeling guilty when you eat!
Here are just a few of the presenters, all of whom offer their own rich, in-depth perspective on health, wellness and mindfulness:
- Dr. Brian Wansink Director of Cornell Food & Brand Lab and best-selling author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
- Evelyn Tribole Award-winning registered dietitian and author of Intuitive Eating
- Dr. Jim Painter Producer of Portion Size Me, a documentary about fast food and health and featured on CBS’s Early Show
- Dr. Katz, author of Disease Proof and contributor to O, the Oprah Magazine
- Dr. Daniel Siegel, Professor of at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center
- Dr. Alan Christianson, specialist in natural endocrinology with a focus on thyroid disorders
- Jonathan Bailor, author of The Calorie Myth
I am also presenting on this summit. The topic of my talk is “The amazing amino acids for eliminating anxiety and emotional eating.”
So do join us on the Eating Mindfully Summit August 21-28 with host Susan Albers. You can sign up here: