Mindful eating is not a trendy new diet or simple lifestyle change that is guaranteed to help you shed your extra weight.
It’s not about molding your body into a more desirable shape or helping you increase your strength, and it’s not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat.
Although it can certainly help you get physically healthier, mindful eating is here to do just one thing: help you build a better relationship with food.
This article contains:
- What is Mindful Eating? (Incl. Definition)
- A Look at the Research: 6 Proven Benefits of Eating Mindfully
- 4 Mindful Eating Exercises and Activities
- The Mindful Eating Questionnaire and Scale
- How to Best Teach Kids Mindful Eating
- What is the Mindful Eating Challenge?
- 26 Tips and Strategies to Create Mindful Eating Habits
- Workshops, Training and Coaching Certification Courses (Incl. Online Options)
- 5 Apps and Trackers to Help Practice Mindful Eating
- Media Including Charts, Videos, and Books
- 8 Quotes on Mindful Eating
What is Mindful Eating? (Incl. Definition)
According to researchers Celia Framson and colleagues, the creators of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire (more on that later), mindful eating can be defined as:
“… a non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating”.
In other words, mindful eating is all about being aware of how we feel when we eat.
To break it down even further, there are four characteristics of mindful eating; when you are eating mindfully, you are:
- Staying aware of what you are doing and the effects that it has on your body—both good and bad.
- Using all of your sense in choosing and experiencing food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
- Acknowledging your responses to food based on your senses without judgment (e.g., like this texture, hate that taste).
- Practicing awareness of your emotions, physical hunger, and the cues that let you know your hunger has been satiated (Fletcher, 2016).
Mindful Eating vs Intuitive Eating
If you’ve heard of intuitive eating, you might be wondering how this is different. There is a lot of overlap between mindful eating and intuitive eating, but they are two distinct methods.
While both involve paying more attention to what and how we eat, intuitive eating is more of a response to unhealthy trends and fad diets, while mindful eating is more of a lifestyle change that accompanies greater overall mindfulness.
According to the “Original Intuitive Eating Pro,” there are 10 principles to intuitive eating:
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor Your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect Your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
- Respect Your Body
- Exercise—Feel the Difference
- Honor Your Health (Intuitive Eating, n.d.).
These ten principles underpin the intuitive eating movement and define it as a method of eating that acts as a stark juxtaposition to the all-carb, no-carb, fasting, and carefully planned meal diets that circulate our social media feeds. The point is to get physically healthier while becoming psychologically healthier is a happy by-product.
Mindful eating, on the other hand, is all about improving psychological health and your relationship with food, and any physical benefits gained are a welcome side effect of this process.
Michelle May’s Work on Mindful Eating: The Mindful Eating Cycle
Am I hungry?
That’s the question Dr. Michelle May wants you to ask yourself. She’s seen people suffer from unhealthy relationships with food and overly restrictive diets, and she put together a framework for mindful eating that can help people rethink the way they eat.
Dr. May coined the term “The Mindful Eating Cycle” and used it as the basis of her Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program (May, 2018).
Here’s the full cycle:
- Why? Why do I eat?
- When? When do I want to eat?
- What? What do I want to eat?
- How? How do I eat?
- How Much? How much do I eat?
- Where? Where do I invest my energy?
Let’s dive into this cycle and flesh out the questions that guide you at each step.
Why do I eat?
- Why do I think I eat?
- Am I really aware of all the situations and/or emotions that trigger me to want to eat when I’m not hungry?
- Do I find myself eating even though I said I wouldn’t? Why?
- Have I tried a lot of diets? What happened? How did they work for me long term? Why?
When do I eat?
- How often do I feel like eating? Why?
- How do I know if I’m hungry?
- Can I tell the difference between physical hunger and head hunger?
- How could I redirect my attention away from food until I’m hungry?
- What could I do to cope better with my emotional triggers for eating when I’m not hungry?
- When does “I want a brownie” really mean “I want a break”?
What do I eat?
- What do I eat in a typical day?
- Would an Awareness Journal help me recognize patterns?
- What types of foods do I feel like eating when I’m eating for emotional reasons? Why?
- Do I restrict myself from eating certain foods, then later give in and overeat those foods?
- Do I feel guilty when I eat?
- Am I afraid of losing control when I eat certain foods?
- What health issues do I need to be aware of when deciding what to eat?
- What could I eat that would help me feel better and become healthier?
- Are there any areas of my diet that I could improve right now?
- What specific change would I like to make at this time?
- What kind of foods could I keep on hand to eat when I’m hungry?
- How could I make the perfect food choice every time to satisfy both my body and my mind?
- Is it really possible to eat anything but not everything?
How do I eat?
- What do I eat in a typical day?
- Do I eat while I’m distracted?
- Do I truly eat as though I love food?
- Do I eat fast, barely tasting my food?
- Do I eat differently in private than I do in public?
- Could I write an article for a gourmet magazine about the last meal I ate?
How much do I eat?
- How do I feel when I’m done eating?
- Do I like the way I feel?
- Do I feel compelled to clean my plate?
- If I’m not hungry when I start eating, how do I know when to stop?
- What situations or emotions trigger me to overeat?
- What could I do to address my triggers for overeating more effectively?
- What do I do after those times I eat too much anyway?
Where do I invest the energy I consume?
- Am I physically active?
- Do I watch too much TV or spend too much free time in front of the computer?
- How do I feel about exercise?
- Do I exercise? What do I like to do?
- Do I use exercise to punish myself for eating or to earn the right to eat?
- What else do I do with my energy (i.e. play with my children; work on my hobbies; volunteer; travel; spend time with friends…)?
- Is there anything else I’d like to do that I’m not doing now?
- What are my goals for my relationships, my career, and my life?
- Do I practice regular and meaningful self-care in order to buffer myself from life stress?
- Does my life reflect wellness and wholeness in body, mind, heart, and spirit?
Asking yourself questions such as these can help you break any unhealthy eating cycles you have and replace them with a healthy mindful eating cycle. Instead of counting calories and worrying about what you eat, you can build a positive and enjoyable relationship with food, leading to a happier and healthier you.
A Look at the Research: 6 Proven Benefits of Eating Mindfully
Eating mindfully is not just a fad or a pet project promoted by its enthusiastic creator. It has proven benefits ranging from the physical (e.g., pounds lost) to the psychological (e.g., reduced anxiety about eating).
Here are a few of the ways mindful eating has been shown to be effective.
Does it Help with Weight Loss and Dieting?
The answer here is a resounding “yes!” Mindful eating is not only good for your mind, but it’s also good for your body too.
Researchers have found a positive relationship between mindful eating and healthy eating. Trait mindfulness is associated with less impulsive eating, reduced calorie consumption, and healthier snack choices; further, results suggested that mindfulness is related to having a preference for healthier foods (Jordan, Wang, & Donatoni, 2014).
Another study found that a mindfulness-based weight loss program led to greater mindfulness, cognitive restraint around eating, and significant decreases in weight, eating disinhibition, binge eating, depression, perceived stress, physical symptoms, and negative affect (Dalen, Smith, Shelley, Sloan, Leahigh, & Begay, 2010).
An intervention focused on mindful eating at restaurants proved to be effective in helping women manage their weight; women who participated in the intervention lost weight, lowered their average daily caloric intake and fat intake, and enjoyed increased diet-related self-efficacy (i.e., felt more confident about their ability to lose weight; Timmerman & Brown, 2012).
Can it Help Treat Eating Disorders?
Mindful eating is also an effective way to help those suffering from eating disorders.
A review of a mindfulness-based eating awareness training found that mindful eating can decrease the frequency of binge eating episodes, improve self-control when it comes to food, and reduce symptoms of depression in those with binge eating disorder (BED; Kristeller & Wolever, 2010).
Another review of 14 separate studies confirmed these results, showing that mindfulness is effective in reducing binge eating and emotional eating (Katterman, Kleinman, Hood, Nackers, & Corsica, 2014).
Finally, a mindful eating group used in conjunction with more traditional eating disorder treatment resulted in a reduction of disordered eating symptoms over a 10-week intervention (Hepworth, 2010).
4 Mindful Eating Exercises and Activities
If these sound like the kinds of benefits you’d like to enjoy in your own life or share with your clients, there are some excellent exercises that can help you implement mindful eating. To start making mindful eating a habit in your daily routine, give one of these three exercises a try.
Jon Kabat Zinn’s Raisin Exercise
Perhaps the most popular mindful eating exercise comes from mindfulness expert Jon Kabat Zinn. The “Raisin Meditation” can be found on the Greater Good Science Center’s website, but we’ll outline it here as well.
Here’s how it works:
- Holding: First, take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb.
- Seeing: Take time to really focus on it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention—imagine that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before in your life. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.
- Touching: Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture. Maybe do this with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch.
- Smelling: Hold the raisin beneath your nose. With each inhalation, take in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise. As you do this, notice anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.
- Placing: Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the raisin in your mouth; without chewing, noticing how it gets into your mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments focusing on the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.
- Tasting: When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in your mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment. Also, pay attention to any changes in the object itself.
- Swallowing: When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.
- Following: Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how your body as a whole is feeling after you have completed this exercise.
Here is the raisin exercise and you can also browse the Greater Good Science Center’s other helpful exercises.
3 Worksheets and Handout Resources (Incl. PDF)
Aside from the ubiquitous raisin meditation, there are other resources and worksheets that can help you guide yourself or your clients towards a healthier and more mindful relationship with your food.
Three of the most popular and effective resources are described below:
1. Two-Plate Approach
This useful handout comes from the Discover Mindful Eating book, a resource that’s chock-full of helpful tips and tricks.
The Two-Plate Approach is a great method to use in places where you don’t necessarily have control over the portion size, or when it’s difficult to regulate your portions (think at a restaurant, especially a buffet).
Here’s how it works:
- Grab two plates; one will be your eating plate (preferably a smaller plate, if one is available) and the other will be your serving plate. Fill up your serving plate with the food you plan to eat.
- Take some of each food from the serving plate and place it on your eating plate. The amount is up to you, but follow your gut—think about how hungry you really are, and how much of the food you think it will take to satisfy you.
- Cut up all of the food on your eating plate into bite-sized pieces and do whatever else you need to do to prepare it for eating.
- Eat all of the food on your eating plate, using slow and mindful bites.
- When you’ve finished all of the food on your eating plate, pause and take a moment to evaluate how you’re feeling. Ask yourself, “Do I need more? Do I really need more?” If not, you’re done with your meal. If you do need more, go ahead and take another helping from your serving plate.
- Bring half the remaining food from the serving plate over to your eating plate, cut it up, and eat it as you did in steps 2 through 4.
- Once you’ve finished this second helping, stop and evaluate the situation again. If you’re still hungry, repeat steps 6 and 7. If you’re not, you should feel comfortable pushing the rest of your food away and stopping here.
You can find this handout on page 9 of this slideshow presentation from Skelly Publishing.
2. Mindful Eating Worksheet
This worksheet is a great way to help kids practice mindful eating, but it’s appropriate for all ages.
It opens with a quick reminder of how to eat mindfully: “When you practice mindful eating, think about how your food tastes, sounds, feels and smells.
Next, it leaves room for you to dip your toes into mindful eating and write about the experience: “Practice mindful eating as you enjoy a piece of fruit. Write or draw your reflections below.”
You can then eat something else or keep the piece of fruit in mind as you answer the next set of questions on how the food (1) tasted, (2) looked, (3) smelled, (4) felt, and (5) sounded.
Once you have given some thought to how each of your senses perceived the food you ate, the worksheet asks you to think about what you noticed when eating this food that you hadn’t noticed before.
Finally, indulge your inner artist by drawing in the space provided at the bottom: “Draw a picture of the fruit and all the things (including people) that it needed to grow.”
This worksheet will help you practice being more mindful about what you eat, how you eat it, and the incredible journey so much of our food takes from its origins to our fork.
You can download the worksheet from Education.com.
3. Mindful Eating Plate
The Mindful Eating Plate is a great visual of how we can best focus our attention and effort when we engage in mindful eating. It comes from Dr. Susan Albers, an expert in mindful eating and author of some of the books we recommend further down this page.
It divides a standard dinner plate into four sections:
- Observe: Notice your body (rumbling stomach, low energy, stressed out, satisfied, full, empty).
- Savor: Notice the texture, aroma, and flavor (is it crunchy, sweet, salty, smooth, spicy?).
- In-the-Moment: Be fully present. Turn off the TV. Sit down. When you eat, just eat.
- Nonjudgment: Speak mindfully and compassionately. Notice when “shoulds,” rigid rules or guilt pops into your mind.
Plus, there is a glass next to the plate outlining the most important aspect of mindful eating:
- Aware: Tasting vs. mindless munching.
The Mindful Eating Questionnaire and Scale
The Mindful Eating Questionnaire is a scale used to measure the extent to which the respondent practices mindfulness in their eating.
It was created by researchers from the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the VA Puget Sound Healthcare organization, and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, which ensured that a diverse set of voices contributed to its validity and applicability (Framson, Kristal, Schenk, Littman, Zeliadt, & Benitez, 2009).
The final version of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire (or MEQ for short) included 5 factors with a total of 28 items. These subscales and items include:
- Factor 1: Disinhibition
- I stop eating when I’m full even when eating something I love.
- When a restaurant portion is too large, I stop eating when I’m full.
- When I eat at “all you can eat” buffets, I tend to overeat.
- If there are leftovers I like, I take a second helping even though I’m full.
- If there’s good food at a party, I’ll continue eating even after I’m full.
- When I’m eating one of my favorite foods, I don’t recognize when I’ve had enough.
- When I’m at a restaurant, I can tell when the portion I’ve been served is too large for me.
- If it doesn’t cost much more, I get the larger size food or drink regardless of how hungry I feel.
- Factor 2: Awareness
- I notice when there are subtle flavors in the foods I eat.
- Before I eat I take a moment to appreciate the colors and smells of my food.
- I appreciate the way my food looks on my plate.
- When eating a pleasant meal, I notice if it makes me feel relaxed.
- I taste every bite of food that I eat.
- I notice when the food I eat affects my emotional state.
- I notice when foods and drinks are too sweet.
- Factor 3: External Cues
- I recognize when food advertisements make me want to eat.
- I notice when I’m eating from a dish of candy just because it’s there.
- I recognize when I’m eating and not hungry.
- I notice when just going into a movie theater makes me want to eat candy or popcorn.
- When I eat a big meal, I notice if it makes me feel heavy or sluggish.
- At a party where there is a lot of good food, I notice when it makes me want to eat more food than I should.
- Factor 4: Emotional Response
- When I’m sad I eat to feel better.
- When I’m feeling stressed at work I’ll go find something to eat.
- I have trouble not eating ice cream, cookies, or chips if they’re around the house.
- I snack without noticing that I am eating.
- Factor 5: Distraction
- My thoughts tend to wander while I am eating.
- I think about things I need to do while I am eating.
- I eat so quickly that I don’t taste what I’m eating.
This scale asks the respondent to choose one of the four following options for each item:
- 1 – Never/Rarely
- 2 – Sometimes
- 3 – Often
- 4 – Usually/Always
The MEQ results in a score ranging from 28 (a 1 on every item) to 112 (a 4 on every item). A lower score indicates a greater tendency to eat with mindfulness, while a higher score suggests the respondent struggles to eat mindfully—or doesn’t know how to eat mindfully.
This scale is available for academic and research and the PDF include the scale itself as well as a scoring sheet.
How to Best Teach Kids Mindful Eating
The worksheet mentioned above is a great way to help kids learn how to practice mindful eating, but there are other tips and tricks to help teach your kids how to eat mindfully.
Give these five tips a try:
- Avoid screens at the table. Phones, tablets, and television screens only serve to distract during meals; removing them will help your children realize when they are full.
- Sit down and eat together. Eating together at the table is a good habit to get into for a lot of reasons; it’s a good way to introduce new foods, engage your children in conversation, and make eating a priority.
- Teach table manners. Manners are important, and good table manners will benefit your children throughout their lifetime; show your children how to communicate effectively, teach them niceties like “excuse me” when they leave the table and require them to clean up after themselves if/when they make a mess.
- Talk about what they are eating and how their bellies feel. To facilitate mindfulness in eating, get your child thinking about eating. Ask them questions about what color their food is, what it looks like, what it feels like, and what it tastes like.
- Avoid eating on the go or in the car. It’s tough to be mindful when you’re in a rush or multitasking, but that can teach your child to use food as a cure for boredom and to ignore hunger and fullness cues (Strong4Life, n.d.).
You can also try these proven techniques from Michigan State University researchers:
- Have them take a deep breath or take a second to be thankful for their meal before eating.
- Ask them how hungry they are before a meal.
- Allow them to serve themselves, this will allow them to become familiar with appropriate serving sizes.
- Eat without distractions such as the television or computer. Have them put down their fork in between bites.
- Wait 15 minutes after eating to decide if they are still hungry for seconds (it takes about 15 minutes for your brain to register if you’re full or not).
- Allow enough time to eat.
- Grow your own garden and let them be a part of that experience (Earnesty & Carlson, 2016).
What is the Mindful Eating Challenge?
With a simple web search, you can find many different mindful eating “challenges.” They all have a similar aim: to get you to make a significant change in your eating habits in a short period of time.
If you’re interested in making mindful eating a part of your lifestyle, you might want to give one of these challenges a shot. Just remember that a lifestyle change is about more than just the first week or two—lasting change requires sustained effort over longer periods of time.
One such mindful eating challenge is called the 5-day “Mindful Meal Challenge.” It was developed by Dr. Darya Rose, a neuroscientist, and promoter of mindful eating. It involves a simple commitment to eat mindfully once a day for five straight days. It’s free to join and includes daily videos and a supportive community to help you live up to your commitment.
26 Tips and Strategies to Create Mindful Eating Habits
If a challenge seems a little too intense for you right now, you might benefit from applying some simple, proven strategies for implementing a more mindful eating habit.
These 12 tips for mindful eating come from Dr. Carolyn Dunn, a dietician, and weight loss expert:
- Make eating an exclusive event rather than multitasking.
- Check your stress level before eating, as you might be turning to food even when you’re not really hungry.
- Acknowledge the gift of food and the effort that went into growing and preparing it, and appreciate your meal.
- Eat slowly, put your fork down between bites, chew your food well, and make each meal last at least 20 minutes.
- Notice the taste, texture, shape, and smell of your food. Savor it.
- Be mindful of the portions to ensure you are enjoying quality, not quantity.
- Be mindful of how hungry you are to make sure you’re only eating when you’re hungry.
- Eat before you get too hungry or you might make impulsive choices.
- Be mindful of your protein, and make sure to choose plant-based proteins often (like beans and legumes).
- Be mindful of your calorie budget to make sure you are eating the right amount to maintain a healthy weight.
- Determine if the food is worth the calories, and splurge on just a few bites when it is appropriate to do so.
- Take one bite when it comes to special foods or desserts so you don’t feel like you’re missing out, but also don’t feel guilty for eating too much (2018).
These 10 tips can also help you build a more mindful eating habit:
- Reflect on how you feel before you eat.
- Sit down instead of eating on the go.
- Turn off the TV, phone, tablet, computer, etc. (anything with a screen).
- Serve yourself a reasonable portion instead of eating from the bag or box.
- Pick a smaller plate to help with portion control.
- Take a moment to pause and cultivate gratitude for your food before eating it.
- Chew several times—the default is 30, although some foods may require more or less chewing.
- Put down your fork or spoon between each bite and don’t pick them up again until you have already swallowed the bite you took last.
- Resign from the “Clean Plate Club;” remind yourself that you don’t need to eat it all!
- Try eating in silence; acknowledge when your mind wanders, but bring it right back to eating whenever you notice it (Armand, 2015).
4 Tips for the Holidays
It can be difficult enough to implement these tips when you are in your normal routine, but it gets even tougher over the holidays. Here are four tips from Jill Suttie at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley to help you stay strong in your mindful eating practice:
- Truly savor your food; slow down and savor the experience of a special holiday treat instead of mindlessly devouring that slice of pumpkin pie.
- Expect social distractions and take precautions against them; don’t socialize near the food table, suggest activities that are not food-centered, and remember to put your fork down between each bite and while talking.
- Check in with yourself to see how hungry you are before you take your first bite, and act accordingly. If you’re not hungry, pass on the food; if you’re not as hungry as you thought, adjust your portion size accordingly.
- Practice gratitude for the food and the company. Pause and take a moment to express gratitude before you eat, and it will be easier to stay mindful of the bounty you are about to enjoy (2012).
Workshops, Training and Coaching Certification Courses (Incl. Online Options)
If you’re interested in getting trained or certified in teaching or coaching others to eat mindfully, there are several options available, including:
- Upcoming Professional Development Events from the Center for Mindful Eating
- Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) developed by Jean Kristeller
- Online Mindful Eating Professional Training (CEU credits available) from Andrea Lieberstein
- Am I Hungry? Webinars & Teleseminars from Michelle May
- Mindful Eating – Conscious Living (ME-CL) Teacher Certification from the UCSD Center for Mindfulness
- Mindful Eating: Mindful Life from the Mindfulness Coaching School taught by Brittany Wildfong
5 Apps and Trackers to Help Practice Mindful Eating
If your smartphone is practically attached to your hand, you might benefit from an app that facilitates mindful eating and better decision-making around food.
These 5 apps are all great options:
- Am I Hungry? – an app from Dr. Michelle May based on the Mindful Eating Cycle; it guides you through the decision-making process when you want to eat.
- Headspace – an app to help you practice meditation, mindfulness, and mindful eating; includes a free 10-day beginner’s course.
- Eat Drink and Be Mindful – an app from Dr. Susan Albers that lets you record your hunger type and level and reminds you to eat mindfully.
- Mindful Eating Tracker – an app that helps you notice a food idea or thought, make decisions about food, rate and track your hunger, thirst, satisfaction, food enjoyment, and gratitude.
- In the Moment – an app from nutritionist Kimberly Flannery that helps you decide when you are actually hungry and when you want to eat for other reasons.
Media Including Charts, Videos, and Books
3 Useful Charts and Checklists
If you’re a hands-on learner or if you want to have resources to share with your clients, check out these three charts and checklists that can help take mindful eating from “a good idea” to “part of my lifestyle.”
1. Awareness Checklist
Use this checklist to ensure that you are mindful and aware when you sit down for your next meal.
The checklist includes these six questions:
- Am I sitting?
- Eating fast or slow?
- Mindlessly munching or noticing each bite?
- Asking “How hungry am I?” on a scale from one to ten.
- Multitasking or truly focused on my meal?
- Rumbling stomach or bored, stressed, tired, anxious, etc.?
This handy checklist gives you an easy way to make sure you are really hungry and that you are fully appreciating your meal. Here is the checklist in PDF form to download for your own use.
2. The Hunger Scale
The Hunger Scale goes from 1 to 10, describing every feeling between ravenous and totally stuffed. It can help to use this scale when you’re thinking about eating but not sure if you’re really hungry or not. Check out the ten levels below and keep them in mind when determining whether you should partake in a second round from the buffet or not.
This scale comes from Eugenia Killoran at the Pritkin Longevity Center and Spa (n.d.):
- Starving (ravenous, weak, grouchy—or even “hangry!”)
- Uncomfortably Hungry
- Very Hungry (“I’m ready to eat now.”)
- A Little Hungry
- Not Full But Not That Hungry (“My mind is on other things than food.”)
- Satisfied and Light (“I could eat more but…”)
- Comfortable but Slightly Too Full
- Very Full (“I ate more than I needed.”)
- Too Full (Feeling heavy and uncomfortable)
- Thanksgiving Dinner Full (In a food coma!)
Here’s how to use it effectively: don’t wait until you’re at a 1 or 2 to start eating and don’t keep eating when you’re full; instead, start eating at 3 and stop eating at 6.
3. Mindful Eating Checklist
Julia Dugas from Food Insight brings us this helpful checklist to master the practice of mindful eating (2017). It has three sections with checkboxes, tips, or space for reflection:
- Pause between bites
- Aware of flavor(s)
- Aware of texture(s)
- Deep breathing
- No screens (TV, tablet, phone, etc.)
- What were the predominant textures of the meal?
- Other: ______
- What were the predominant tastes/flavors of the meal?
- Umami (savory)
- Slow down at snack time using these techniques:
- Take small bites
- Chew thoroughly
- Eat slowly
- Slow down at snack time using these techniques:
- Use this space to reflect on your mindful eating experience.
This simple checklist guides you in practicing healthy eating habits and being fully aware of what—and how—you’re eating.
20 Scripts, Guided Meditations, and Mantras
These scripts and meditations can help you stay on track in your quest to eat more mindfully:
- Guided Meditation for Food Cravings from Live Sonima
- Mindful Eating Meditation from Dr. Jamie Zimmerman
- Mindful Eating Script from James Madison University’s Counseling Center
- A Mindful Eating Script from Christine Milovani at the VHA Office of Patient-Centered Care & Cultural Transformation
Here are more meditations on mindful eating from the Center for Mindful Eating.
If you’re a fan of mantras, these 16 mantras from the University of Massachusetts Center for Applied Nutrition (n.d.) are also great tools you can use to be more mindful with your food:
- “I’m in charge of fueling my body mindfully.”
- “Eat to nourish and energize.”
- “Open your mind before you open your mouth.”
- “The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.” – Hippocrates
- “In this food I see the entire universe supporting my existence.”
- “I am grateful for each bite. Grateful for the farmers who grew the food, for hands that picked it, for drivers who brought it, for clerks who stocked it, for the earth and sun and rain that made it grow.”
- “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
- “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” – Laura Silva
- “I am flexible and flowing.”
- “Describe the taste. Describe the texture. Describe the feel.”
- “Slow down, the food isn’t going anywhere, chew, taste, savor, and enjoy!”
- “Be thankful for loving every spoonful!”
- “Can I eat this and be thankful?”
- Just gaze over the food taking it all in, breathing with perfect posture, smiling in delight…and say, “Mmmmmmmm…”
- “Eat, drink, and be mindful.”
- “Now is the time. Make mindful choices today, not tomorrow!”
6 YouTube and TedTalk Videos
If you want a quick introduction or refresher on mindful eating, or if you want to introduce your students, children, or clients to mindful eating, give these six videos a try:
1. Introduction to Mindful Eating by Michelle DuVal at The Mindful Center from MichelleDuValMindfulness
2. Sweet Talk Episode 2: The Practice of Mindful Eating with Sky Cowans from Pyure Organic
3. Taste Test: Cosmic Kids Zen Den – Mindfulness for Kids from Cosmic Kids Yoga
4. Mindful Eating with Mayo TEDx Talk from Karen Mayo
5. Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat TEDx Talk from Michelle May
6. Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work TEDx Talk from Sandra Aamodt
4 Podcasts on the Topic
Those who can’t live without a podcast on their daily commute might want to give these 4 podcasts on mindful eating a listen:
- Beyond Mindful Eating with Marc David – Psychology of Eating by Marc David and Emily Rosen
- Mindful Eating and How to Simply Things in Your Life by ForeverFit
- A Year of Mindful Eating Podcast Series by Jillian Abbott
- Mindful Eating – The Everyday Mindfulness Show by Mike Domitrz (with guests Angela Gaffney, Michelle May, and Laurie Guest)
7 Recommended Books on Amazon
For those looking for a deeper dive into mindful eating, these seven books might hit the spot:
- Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food by Susan Albers (Available on Amazon)
- Mindful Eating on the Go: Practices for Eating with Awareness, Wherever You Are by Jan Chozen Bays (Available on Amazon)
- Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh (Available on Amazon)
- Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays (Available on Amazon)
- The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution: Proven Strategies to End Overeating, Satisfy Your Hunger, and Savor Your Life by Lynn Rossy (Available on Amazon)
- Mindful Eating: A Healthy, Balanced and Compassionate Way to Lose Weight and Get a Real Taste of Life by Eating Mindfully by Simeon Lindstrom (Available on Amazon)
- Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful: How to End Your Struggle with Mindless Eating and Start Savoring Food with Intention and Joy by Susan Albers (Available on Amazon)
4 Mindful Eating Workbooks
If you’re looking to put some of the principles you learned about mindful eating into practice, these workbooks can help you on your way:
- The Mindful Eating Workbook: Simple Mindfulness Practices to Nurture a Healthy Relationship with Food by Vincci Tsui (Available on Amazon)
- The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (Available on Amazon)
- Eating Mindfully for Teens: A Workbook to Help You Make Healthy Choices, End Emotional Eating, and Feel Great by Susan Albers (Available on Amazon)
- The Mindful Eating Workbook: A Guide to Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight by Elaine Shea (Available on Amazon)
4 Journal Articles
If you’re interested in learning more about mindful eating from an academic standpoint, there are a few key journal articles to put on your reading list:
- Development and validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire by Framson et al., 2009
- The positive impact of mindful eating on expectations of food liking by Hong et al., 2011
- Using mindful eating to treat food restriction: A case study by Susan Albers, 2010
- Does mindfulness matter? Everyday mindfulness, mindful eating and self-reported serving size of energy-dense foods among a sample of South Australian adults by Beshara et al., 2013
8 Quotes on Mindful Eating
The path to healthy body and happy soul is based upon self-study, mindfulness, love and awareness. Understanding our relationship to eating cultivates a lot of insights and helps us start living our highest potential.
Natasa Pantovic Nuit
Mindful eating is a way to become reacquainted with the guidance of our internal nutritionist.
Jan Chozen Bays
Even if you can’t be totally mindful at every meal, if you can say a blessing, silently if necessary, or offer up a prayer for someone, something beyond yourself and your food, the prayer helps to transform eating into something that affects not only our hunger at that moment but the greater world.
Mary DeTurris Poust
Training your mind to be in the present moment is the #1 key to making healthier choices.
When you bow, you should just bow; when you sit, you should just sit; when you eat, you should just eat.
If someone is thinking about something other than the good food on the table, such as his difficulties in the office or with friends, it means he is losing the present moment and the food. You can help by returning his attention to the meal.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindful eating replaces self-criticism with self-nurturing. It replaces shame with respect for your own inner wisdom.
Jan Chozen Bays
Instead of thinking of food as the enemy, allow yourself to enjoy the process of planning and preparing meals or going out to lunch with a friend. Stay in the present moment and understand that the purpose of food is nourishment.
- Armand, W. (2015). 10 tips for mindful eating—just in time for the holidays. Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/10-tips-for-mindful-eating-just-in-time-for-the-holidays-201511248698
- Center for Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Mindful eating mantras. UMass Medical School. Retrieved from https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/mindfull-eating/mindfuleating/mantras/
- Dalen, J., Smith, B. W., Shelley, B. M., Sloan, A. L., Leahigh, L., & Begay, D. (2010). 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, 18, 260-264. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2010.09.008
- Dugas, J. (2017). Mindful eating checklist: How to master mindful eating. Food Insight. Retrieved from https://foodinsight.org/mindful-eating-checklist-how-to-master-mindful-eating/
- Dunn, C. (2018). 12 mindful eating strategies. Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less. Retrieved from https://esmmweighless.com/12-steps-mindful-eating/
- Earnesty, D., & Carlson, A. (2016). Teaching kids the art of mindful eating. Michigan State University: MSU Extension. Retrieved from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/teaching_kids_the_art_of_mindful_eating
- Fletcher, M. (2016). What is mindful eating? Mindful. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindful-eating/
- Framson, C., Kristal, A. R., Schenk, J., Littman, A. J., Zeliadt, S., & Benitez, D. (2009). Development and validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Journal of the American Diet Association, 10, 1439-1444. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.006
- Hepworth, N. S. (2010). A mindful eating group as an adjunct to individual treatment for eating disorders: A pilot study. The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 19, 6-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/10640266.2011.533601
- Intuitive Eating. (n.d.). 10 principles of intuitive eating. IntuitiveEating.org. Retrieved from https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/
- Jordan, C. H., Wang, W., & Donatoni, L. R. (2014). Mindful eating: Trait and state mindfulness predict healthier eating behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 68, 107-111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2014.04.013
- Katterman, S. N., Kleinman, B. M., Hood, M. M., Nackers, L. M., & Corsica, J. A. (2014). Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review. Eating Behaviors, 15, 197-204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.01.005
- Killoran, E. (n.d.). The Hunger Scale: Mindful eating for weight loss. Pritkin. Retrieved from https://www.pritikin.com/your-health/healthy-living/eating-right/1838-hunger-scale-mindful-eating-weight-loss.html
- Kristeller, J. L., & Wolever, R. Q. (2010). Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating Binge Eating Disorder: The conceptual foundation. The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 19, 49-61. https://doi.org/10.1080/10640266.2011.533605
- May, M. (2018). The mindful eating cycle. Am I Hungry? Retrieved from https://amihungry.com/mindful-eating-resources/about-the-mindful-eating-cycle/
- Strong4Life. (n.d.). 5 ways to practice mindful eating. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta: Strong4Life. Retrieved from https://www.strong4life.com/en/pages/healthy-eating/articles/5-ways-to-practice-mindful-eating
- Suttie, J. (2012). Four tips for mindful eating over the holidays. Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_mindful_eating_over_the_holidays
- Timmerman, G. M., & Brown, A. (2012). The effect of a mindful restaurant eating intervention on weight management in women. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 44, 22-28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2011.03.143