Life Times Newsletter

Fall 2008
Vol. 10, No. 4

The art of mindful eating

Damaris Karanja, MA
Nutrition & Health Education

Lynn Rossy, PhD
Health Psychologist
Healthy for Life T.E. Atkins
University of Missouri Wellness Program

Do you have a habit of eating when you are bored, lonely, stressed out, depressed or even tired? Sometimes we find ourselves eating, not because we are hungry, but because we are going through different emotions, and we reach out to food for comfort.

What is mindful eating? 

Mindful eating is defined as being conscious of why you are eating. This simple concept has helped people struggling with weight issues, eating disorders, body image and even self esteem. It is not about following
   recipes or counting calories. It’s about learning
how and why you eat, and less about what you eat.

Mindful eating helps you to move away from the diet mentality and puts you in touch with your inner self. The more you are in touch with your hunger and fullness, the less you need to count calories.

Eat, drink & be mindful

Mindfulness is being diligently attentive to your body, mind, thoughts and feelings as you eat.

Mindfulness of the body

This involves listening to your body and being in touch with your inner self. How does your body tell you when it’s hungry or full? Does your stomach rumble? Do you experience low energy levels or hunger pains? Do you ignore your body’s feedback? A good rule of thumb is to eat when your hunger scale is between 3 and 6 (on a scale of 1-10). At level 1 you are beyond hungry. You are totally out of energy, can’t concentrate and feel dizzy. At level 10, you are beyond full or stuffed, a typical Thanksgiving dinner feeling. Conscious awareness of what is going on inside your body helps you know when you are satisfied rather than stuffed or starving.

Mindfulness of the mind

Are you concentrating and paying attention to every bite? Or are you eating without paying attention to the texture, temperature, taste and even the sound of food? Eat your food slowly and pay attention to every single bite. Pay attention to the quantity of food you consume instead of eating or snacking mindlessly.

Mindfulness of feelings

What emotions do you experience that may trigger you either to start or stop eating? Sometimes the strongest longings for food happen when you’re at your weakest point emotionally. Many people turn to food for comfort — consciously or unconsciously — when they're facing a difficult problem or looking to keep themselves occupied. Pay attention to how you’re feeling when you eat and how hungry you are. Sometimes, coping with your feelings is more important than changing the type of foods you eat.

Mindfulness of thoughts

Pay attention to your thoughts regarding your body weight or eating habits. Negative thoughts may trigger mindless eating. Pay careful attention to “should” and “should not” thoughts, critical thoughts (I’m so fat!), food rules, “good” and “bad” food categories. If you make a mistake, learn to forgive yourself. Focus on the positive changes you are making in your eating habits, and give yourself credit for making other changes that ensure better health.


Source: Albers, Susan. (2003).

Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating & Enjoy a

Balanced Relationship with Food. New Harbinger Publications.



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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller