How To Practise Mindful Eating, Meditation and Breathwork
I’m sure you already know a bit about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness – that’s why you’re here! But it’s one thing to know something is good for you, and another to put it into practice. So I’m here to help you learn how to practise mindful eating and meditation in a habit-forming way.
Maybe you’ve tried some meditation podcasts or apps, and you’ve practised some yoga, but you’re still not practising mindfulness outside of those moments.
That’s okay! You’ve got a great start.
The good news is, it’s easy to learn how to practise mindful eating and meditation daily with just a few small changes.
There isn’t any need to shake up your whole routine – after all, most of these changes come from within.
This is also a process. You can’t expect to master it overnight, but I’m going to lay out my top nine tips to help make eating mindfully a natural part of your day. These are especially beneficial for anyone who regularly finds themselves emotionally eating.
What is mindful eating?
One of the ways to stop emotional eating is to increase our awareness of our body’s hunger signals, understand our emotions before, during and after eating and slow down and eat without distractions.
How often do you eat in front of the TV? At your desk?
When’s the last time you sat in silence and just ate, paying attention to the weight of the spoon or fork, breathing between bites, chewing slowly and naming the flavours as you experience them?
If never, you aren’t alone. But doesn’t that sound downright blissful?
Because it is!
Mindful eating is all about paying close attention to the food you eat. And I don’t mean calorie counting or portion control. In fact, mindful eating is all about saying goodbye to your perceived notions of nutrition and instead of tuning in to the most knowledgeable source – your body.
There are some differences between food freedom vs mindful eating, but they are wonderful complements to each other.
The primary difference is that food freedom takes the groundwork of mindful eating and runs with it – creating a food freedom road map based on the food freedom principles.
These principles cover things like gentle exercise and body kindness on top of mindful eating. So, if you learn how to eat mindfully and want to take it a step further, a food freedom programme might be something you should look into.
You may not think you are very knowledgeable about food, but that’s only because you’ve been listening to conflicting outside information. When you actually slow down and learn to listen to your body’s hunger cues, you’d be surprised what it can teach you.
You’ll become more aware of your hunger cues, cravings, experiences and emotions surrounding food.
In fact, studies show that mindful eating can help with stress, anxiety and overeating. Studies have also found that mindful eating can help with diabetes.
Both mindful eating and intuitive eating (food freedom) can be wonderful tools to help you find the best eating habits for your body.
So are you ready to get started?
How to practise mindful eating (and overall mindfulness)
Here are my top 8 tips for adding some extra mindfulness to your day, from meditation to breathwork to mindful eating practises.
1. Start the day with meditation
Developing a morning meditation practise will set the tone for your entire day and get you in ‘mindfulness mode.’
Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase cognitive function, decrease emotional reactivity and help with depression and anxiety.
And, all you need is five minutes a day!
You can meditate on your own by finding a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed.
Close your eyes and focus on your breath. As you breathe slowly and deeply, you can practise the box breath. This just means you count to 3 or 4 with each breath in, hold for 4 seconds, release for 4 seconds, then start over again. During this time, focus your mind on your breath and let any thoughts drift right out of your mind.
Thoughts will pop up, but you should try to be indifferent to them. Don’t judge them.
Keep returning your focus to your breath, and just see where the journey takes you! If it helps, you can try a guided meditation, app or podcast to get used to meditating. And once you get comfortable with a five-minute meditation, try to work your way up to fifteen minutes a day for the best results.
2. Go slowly
Eating quickly is one of the easiest ways to binge without thinking about it – and it often leaves you uncomfortably full. That’s because you don’t have time to check in with the food feeling scale, and you often won’t know you’re full until about fifteen minutes too late!
When you eat slowly and really focus on how you’re feeling, you will have a much better understanding of when your body is satisfied.
To remind yourself to slow down, you could make a game of it – like using your non-dominant hand, or a different utensil. This could be a fun way to learn how to practise mindful eating, and will certainly keep you in the moment!
If that feels like a bit much, you can also practise mindful eating by putting down your utensil between bites, or limiting the size of your plate so you can really have the time to stop and decide if your body wants another serving.
3. Appreciate your food
One of the best ways to learn how to practise mindful eating is to really give your attention to your food. And I don’t just mean the way it tastes. Eating offers you an incredible opportunity to connect more deeply with the natural world and your community – so fully embrace it.
Consider where the food came from, and the entire journey it took to end up on your plate.
Think of the water, soil, and sun required to grow the food. The farmers that tended it. The people who prepared it, stocked it on the shelves or cooked it for you.
Pause for a moment and silently express gratitude that this gift of sustenance has found its way to you through a network of hard work and love.
4. Immerse your senses
One of the best ways to stay in the moment is to really dive into an experience of the senses. Food is such a fantastic way to do that too! You have beautiful colours, textures, aromas and flavours all just begging to be played with.
Whether you’re eating out or cooking at home, embrace your curiosity for all things culinary by trying something new.
Learn how to practise mindful eating by exploring new seasonings and textures. Take your taste buds on vacation by trying cuisines from around the world! Take note of the colour composition of your dish. Inhale its scent. Think about how it feels on your tongue.
Does it make sounds when you chew it? Can you identify all the ingredients?
When you make your food a sensual experience, it is easier than you might think to learn how to practise mindful eating.
5. Listen to your hunger signals
To learn how to practice mindful eating, it’s really important to understand if you are eating in response to your body’s needs – or an emotional impulse.
So often, we listen to our minds instead of our bodies. If you are having a craving for a particular food, or are eating because you are stressed or simply because you are celebrating, then you are emotionally eating.
Physical hunger is not particular about a time or place or type of food. When you are physically hungry, your body wants nutrients – and it’s important to feed yourself at this time.
Learn to listen to your hunger cues.
Maybe you’re feeling a little tired or headachy. Are you suddenly becoming more irritable? Is your stomach growling? Your body has many ways to tell you it wants food, and learning to listen for them is a good way to practise mindful eating.
6. Understand your triggers
You just learned a bit about the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger, but now we’re going to take it a step further – finding the source.
What brings on your emotional eating episodes?
Was it a fight with a friend? Did you read something on social media that didn’t sit right with you? Was it a particularly bad day at work?
Were you just bored?
When you start to recognise your emotional eating triggers, it will be easier to identify if it’s truly your body (or just your brain) that wants food.
As you learn how to practise mindful eating, find some nourishing foods that are also satisfying and comforting. This can help you strike a good balance when you need a little pick-me-up.
7. Let go of restrictions
Mindful eating is not a diet. You don’t need to restrict or eliminate any foods. In fact, when you learn how to practice mindful eating, you can throw out all the rules. That’s because there is no such thing as good food or bad food – only food that makes your body feel good or bad.
It’s also important to remember that you aren’t eating for the goal of weight loss. If you are eating with that outcome in mind, then it isn’t true mindful eating.
Mindful eating invites you to be present in the moment of your meal – and to savour your food without any guilt or judgement.
Remember, as you learn how to practise mindful eating you’ll also learn how to change your views about food.
8. Practise breathwork
Have you heard of breathwork?
It’s an active form of meditation that is a great introduction to mindfulness.
Breathwork helps you disconnect from your mind, and reconnect with your body – which is really helpful when you are trying to learn how to practise mindful eating.
Practising breathwork can make you better equipped to handle stress and anxiety, just like other forms of meditation. It can help put you in the right frame of mind to practise mindful eating. And it can also be used at any time throughout the day if you’re feeling out of sorts.
There is a vast range of breathwork techniques: each with its own purpose and effect on your body. Here are some really great breathwork techniques for beginners that can help you get started.
Every path to mindfulness is valid
There is no right or wrong way to approach meditation or mindful eating. It’s up to you to find out what works best for you and work with a food & body freedom therapist to help you along the journey.
And, remember, the path to mindfulness is not a linear process. It’s okay if you have days where you don’t feel like being mindful at all!
Over time mindful eating and meditation will become a positive habit in your life. And, I invite you to explore my group programme to have some external support on your journey to finding food freedom.