Have you ever eaten beyond the point of being full or knew you were too full to eat one more bite until you see the dessert cart being wheeled around? Unfortunately, many of us are guilty of overriding our true physical hunger with our appetites. To help people better understand their relationship with food, and to help decipher a true need to eat as opposed to the desire to eat, an increasing number of health professionals are using the model of mindful eating. This model has lead to successful weight loss and more importantly, a healthier relationship with food.

Being able to recognize and understand if you are physically hungry or if there is something else that is prompting you to eat is the driving force behind mindful eating. When you are more aware of the food you are eating and the entire process of eating, you will be able to pinpoint an area that needs improvement.

According to the Center for Mindful Eating, a mindful eater:

  • Acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat, but rather varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food

  • Accepts that their eating experience is unique and directs their attention to eating in the moment

  • Gains awareness of how they can make choices that support health and well-being

  • Becomes aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available with food selection, preparation and consumption

  • Uses all of their senses when choosing to eat food that is both satisfying and nourishing

  • Acknowledges individual responses to food such as likes, dislikes or neutrality without judgment

  • Becomes aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide their decision to start and stop eating

There are plenty of books, websites and research articles about mindful eating, but if you are interested in experimenting with eating more mindfully then try the following simple tools. The first tool is learning your eating cycle. When food crosses your mind ask yourself the following questions: what do I eat, when do I eat, why do I eat and how much do I eat? Another tool you can use is a hunger scale. Create a scale from 0-10 with 0 being very hungry and 10 being least hungry. Rate your hunger before, during and after eating for a few days. By rating your hunger and describing how you feel at different hunger levels you will become more aware of true hunger and fullness.

For more of an in-depth look at mindful eating you can visit Dr. Michelle May’s website, AmIHungry.com. Dr. May says that by giving food and eating your full attention you then allow yourself to have optimal satisfaction without eating to excess. She provides a list of simple steps for mindful eating such as:

  • Don’t wait to eat until you are famished

  • Choose food to satisfy your body and mind

  • Eat without distraction

  • Eat sitting down

  • Appreciate the aroma and appearance of your food

  • Pause in the middle of eating for at least two minutes

  • Notice how you feel when you are finished eating

So the next time you sit down for a meal I challenge you to practice becoming more aware of what you are eating and how it makes you feel.