Brook Remote Care

Week 10 – Mindful Eating

Purpose

Introduce mindful eating, how it can improve your health, and how to get started.

Time to read

8 minutes

In our fast-paced and often hectic lives, it’s easy to rush through meals and snacks without truly savoring or appreciating them. Enter mindful eating, an approach to eating that goes far beyond simply counting calories or tracking macronutrients. Mindful eating is a practice rooted in mindfulness, encouraging us to cultivate awareness around our eating habits and our body’s signals of hunger and fullness.

BENEFITS OF MINDFUL EATING

Weight management:
  • Reduces overeating and promotes healthier portion control.

  • May lead to reduced intake of trans fats and sugar, while increasing intake of fiber and veggies.

  • Enhances awareness of emotional and physical hunger cues, helping to prevent mindless snacking.

Blood sugar management:
  • Helps stabilize blood sugar levels for sustained energy.

  • Promotes better insulin sensitivity and improves glycemic management in those with insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes.

Improved digestion:
  • Encourages slower eating, helping our body get into ‘rest and digest’ mode.

  • Reduces common issues like indigestion and bloating.

Mental health:
  • Shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

  • Reduces overall stress levels.  

Emotional eating:
  • Raises awareness of emotional triggers for eating, allowing for healthier coping strategies.

  • Decreases the likelihood of turning to food for comfort during stress.

General health:
  • Reduces inflammation and high cortisol levels in the body. 

  • May help manage chronic health conditions such as cancer.

PRACTICING MINDFUL EATING

When you practice mindful eating, you are also practicing a form of mindful meditation. If we’re currently experiencing a state of high stress, mindful eating can help reduce that stress. If you eat more mindfully, you’re more likely to notice when you’re over or under eating in response to stress triggers. This can be a signal to work on addressing those triggers or making time for self-care, meditation, or other stress management techniques.

Mindful eating can also help you not sabotage your healthy eating efforts since you’ll notice when stress is affecting your eating habits and get back on track.

Do a hunger check

Most of us eat on a regular schedule, but do you ever ask yourself if you’re actually hungry when mealtimes arrive? If you aren’t truly hungry, you don’t have to eat, even if the clock says it’s time for a meal. On the flip-side, there should be no guilt in honoring your body’s hunger signals, even if it isn’t “time to eat.”

Do a satiety check

Many of us 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 and overeating. 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? 

Halfway through your next meal, 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 was enough to satisfy you, or that you only want a small amount more. 

If you are out to eat, try asking 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, aim for a feeling around 3 or 4. When you check in on your fullness, aim to 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 overeat high calorie foods to feel satisfied, rather than a well balanced meal or snack.

Explore your hunger

When you start feeling hungry, ask yourself what sounds good. Eating a salad may be 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, anyway. It’s important to balance good nutrition with food you enjoy. Watch portion sizes and consider adding in something with fiber, healthy fat, or protein to help make that treat you’re craving more satisfying. Like half a brownie and a small handful of cashews instead of a whole brownie. Could that still satisfy your brownie craving? Try it next time and find out!

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. In fact, many of us immediately pull out our smartphones or even a book if we are eating a meal on our own. Research done on this subject shows that mixing screens and distractions 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, which can lead to overeating. If you tend to watch a show or surf the internet while you eat, consider ways to do so less often. Try sharing a meal with a friend or co-worker (conversation doesn’t dull our fullness cues), or just focus on the pleasure and taste of the food in front of you for a bit.

Mindful meals

Being mindful is all about being in the present moment. When eating, take the time to really be aware of both your surroundings and your food. Make meals intentional by plating up your food and sitting down to eat (no eating over the sink!). Limit distractions by silencing your phone. When eating, think about how the food tastes and how it feels to be eating it. What flavors and textures are in that meal? Does eating it spark some emotion?

The bottom line

Mindful eating is a valuable tool to utilize on your health journey. Not only can it help you manage your weight and keep your blood sugar stable, it also helps reduce stress and handle your emotions better. It can even help with chronic disease prevention and management. It’s not just about what you eat; it’s about feeling better in your body and mind, making it a great path to overall health.


NEXT STEPS

  1. Try using the hunger/fullness scale when eating a meal and remember or write down what number you were before and after the meal. If you weren’t a 3-4 and a 6-7 after, try again at your next meal!

  2. Use what you’ve learned in this session to identify something that triggers overeating or cravings and practice a mindful eating technique.

  3. Reach out to the Brook Health Coaches for additional support incorporating more mindful eating practices! Use the Brook app to help you track your progress and by logging your readings from your program devices, plus your meals, activity, and medications.


REFERENCES

Harris, C. (2013, March). Mindful eating — studies show this concept can help clients lose weight and better manage chronic disease. Today’s Dietitian, 15(3), 42. Retrieved from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml.