Stay healthy with mindful eating

27 April 2023 dot 4-minute read
Healthy Body Live Well Diet and nutrition How to Mindful eating
Mindful eating is key to a healthier relationship with food. (Credit: Getty Images)
How quickly do you consume your meals? Do you eat to excess or relish each bite carefully and deliberately? You may be on to something if you fall under the latter. Intuitive or mindful eating involves using your physical and emotional senses to savour the dining experience. Apart from making your lunch breaks more enjoyable, this approach also benefits your mind and body.
Mindful eating is hardly a dieting fad. It offers no restrictions and no limitations to what you can enjoy. Instead, it makes you more aware of your gustatory choices without judgment – self-discovery which ultimately extends to other aspects of your lifestyle.

What is mindful eating?

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD., co-author of Intentional Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, considers mindful eating the process of honouring one's health by being in tune with your body's needs and responding accordingly.
Here are some ways to practise this connection:
  • Eat your desired food using hunger and fullness cues
  • Stop eating when comfortably full
  • Eat to satisfy hunger, not as a self-soothing technique to escape emotions
  • Select foods that taste good while making you feel well
  • Challenge food rules, which may originate from personal, family and cultural mores and beliefs

Science-backed benefits of mindful eating

Mindful eating inspires you to choose healthier foods consciously. (Credit: Getty Images)
In 2015, Dr Eric Loucks, director of the Mindfulness Center of Brown University, published a study involving almost 400 people. His findings suggest that those who exhibited more mindfulness had lower obesity risk and less abdominal fat.
Seven years later, Loucks presented the results of another research to the American Heart Association Scientific Session. He customised an eight-week mindfulness programme that taught adults with elevated blood pressure skills like attention control, meditation, self-awareness and emotion regulation. The goal was to help the participants make healthy changes in diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption and stress.
The participants showed significantly lower blood pressure levels and reduced sedentary time six months after training ended. They were also more likely to eat heart-healthy foods and reported lower levels of perceived stress.
Besides Loucks' research, a study among Brazilian women shows how mindful eating reduces binge eating. Another paper by Kyushu University researchers indicates how eating speed affects changes in body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference among people with type 2 diabetes.
Reviews of more than 100 studies linked eating mindfully to psychological benefits like:
  • Positive body image
  • Less anxiety
  • Improved self-worth
  • Increased optimism
  • Greater self-motivation

Mindful eating for beginners

Mindful eating requires you to ignore distractions while consuming your meal. (Credit: Getty Images)
Most people's initiation to mindful eating starts with noticing a particular food's taste and crunchiness. You're advised to eat slowly to appreciate all the details of the flavour and textures. These early stages can be frustrating, especially when you're someone with a tight schedule.
But it's why you must try to be more intentional. Take account of your busy schedule to accommodate a mindful eating practice.

1. Train yourself to pause and eat slowly during mealtimes. You can pick any of the following:

  • Take a full breath before the first bite. It can help you relax and focus on the food.
  • Put down your utensils or drink water until you finish chewing.
  • Avoid distractions like looking at your phone, even if it's just in the first few minutes of your mealtime.

2. Make a happiness plate.

Eating appetising food on a fancy plate can make eating a more enjoyable experience. Try also using smaller plates to exercise portion control.

3. Experiment with new foods.

New foods can help you work on using all your senses as you try new flavours and textures. It expands your palate and makes mealtime a more pleasurable experience.

4. Avoid skipping meals.

You can schedule smaller meals throughout the day, such as an apple or a small bowl of yoghurt with nuts and seeds. Going too long without eating can make you feel ravenous at the next mealtime, leading to unhealthy food choices.

5. Curb cravings with "urge surfing".

Incorporating mindful eating into your daily life takes a lot of practice, patience and time. You may be more successful if you also include mindfulness training facilitated by an expert.
AIA Vitality can be your support system with its network of dietitians and nutritionists. This science-backed wellness programme can craft solutions targeting your pain points with a holistic approach.
Mindful eating is for anyone looking to break unhealthy eating patterns. It can reset behaviours and habits, especially when choosing what and how much to consume. More importantly, this eating style develops self-trust, fosters acceptance and instils a nonjudging attitude. It's a conscious lifestyle that can go beyond food.
Brown University. 2015. Mindfulness linked to lower obesity risk, belly fat. [online] [Accessed on 11 March 2023]
International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2015. Associations of Dispositional Mindfulness with Obesity and Central Adiposity: the New England Family Study. [online] [Accessed on 11 March 2023]
American Heart Association. 2022. Mindfulness shows promise as an effective intervention to lower blood pressure. [online] [Accessed on 11 March 2023]
The Neuroscience of Meditation. 2020. Understanding Indvidual differences [online] [Accessed on 11 March 2023]
BMJ Open. 2018. Effects of changes in eating speed on obesity in patients with diabetes: a secondary analysis of longitudinal health check-up data. [online] [Accessed on 11 March 2023]
Diabetes Spectrum (American Diabetes Association). 2017. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. [online] [Accessed on 11 March 2023]
Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) Pulse. 2017. Intuitive Eating: Research Update. [online] [Accessed on 11 March 2023]
Yale University's Mechanisms of Disinhibition Laboratory. Urge Surfing. [online] [Accessed on 11 March 2023]
National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2017. The Mindful Self: A Mindfulness-Enlightened Self-view [online] [Accessed on 26 January 2023]
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2012. The Effect of a Mindful Restaurant Eating Intervention on Weight Management in Women. [online] [Accessed on 26 January 2023]
Science Direct. 2014. Mindful eating: Trait and state mindfulness predict healthier eating behavior. [online] [Accessed on 26 January 2023]

This is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a financial adviser, or medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

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