Mindful Eating: Bringing Focus and Pleasure Back to Eating

The majority of us would likely rank food and eating as one of life’s top daily pleasures. However, our days can be so fast-paced that sometimes we don’t even have time to enjoy our food, let alone stop to eat a proper meal. Our desire for multi-tasking during mealtime is the main reason the sandwich is now the #1 preferred style of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in America!  Much of our eating has become mindless, but we can change that. Taking time to check in with ourselves and be more mindful about our food can help prevent overeating, increase our overall satisfaction, and improve blood sugar management.

Do a hunger check

We often eat on a schedule, but have you ever asked yourself if you are actually hungry when breakfast, lunch, and dinner times arrive? If you truly aren’t hungry, you don’t have to eat, even if the clock says it’s time for a meal. Conversely, there should be no guilt in honoring your body’s natural need for nourishment, even if it isn’t “time to eat.”

Do a satiety check

Many people grew up hearing our parents say “clean your plate” or “don’t waste food.” These aren’t necessarily bad messages, but they can promote mindless eating. If you always clean your plate, are you really eating because you’re hungry for everything that’s in front of you, or are you only doing it for the sake of cleaning your plate? The next time you eat, halfway through ask yourself, “am I hungry for the rest of this?” Take a pause to really feel how full or hungry you are. If this feels challenging, it may be easier if you serve yourself a smaller portion initially. You may find that the amount in that first serving is enough to satisfy you, or that you only want a small amount more. If you are out to eat, you might ask for a to-go box as soon as your plate hits the table. Restaurant portions are often larger than what we would eat at home, so immediately removing some of it from the plate can help us stay in tune with our true hunger, especially if we tend to keep eating until the food is gone.

Think about the Hunger/Fullness Scale

When you are checking in on your hunger or fullness, it can be helpful to use a scale and assign a number to how you feel before and after eating. When you start eating, you should be feeling around a 3 or 4. When you check in on your fullness, you should be at a 6 or 7. If you wait to eat until you are extremely hungry (1 or 2), you may accidentally overeat and then end up so full you feel sick! When you are feeling that hungry, you may be more likely to grab anything to satisfy your hunger, rather than a well balanced meal or snack. 

Explore your hunger

When hunger does arise, ask yourself what it is you are truly hungering for. Eating a salad may sound good for your health, but if you’re eating a salad in place of something you would much rather eat, you’ll likely find yourself craving what you really wanted later on. This can lead to overeating, casting aside even the best laid plans for a healthy diet. It’s important to balance good nutrition with food you enjoy. The good news is that so many nutritious foods out there actually taste good! Here at Brook we promote both healthy eating AND enjoying your food.

Keep media and food separate

This may seem like a challenging idea. After all, watching TV or movies and eating seem to go hand-in-hand. Likewise, many of us immediately pull out our smartphones if we are eating a meal out on our own. However, research done on this subject shows that mixing screens with our meal leads to a ‘dulling’ in our perception of hunger and fullness cues. In other words, we stop paying attention to whether or not we are getting full when we watch while munching, resulting in overeating. If you tend to watch a show or surf the internet while you eat, consider switching it up. Try sharing a meal with a friend or co-worker (conversation doesn’t seem to dull our fullness cues), or just focus in on the pleasure and taste of the food in front of you for a bit. If you must grab your phone, use it to chat with a Health Coach about mindful eating!

Need more tips, tricks, & inspiration? Head on over to your Brook app to chat with a Health Coach any day of the week!

Reviewed by Heather King, MS, RDN​, CDE

on April 2, 2020. Heather is a Certified Diabetes Educator, has been a Registered Dietitian for over 12 years, and is Brook's Health Director.