The Art and Science of Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a mindfulness meditation practice that has the ability to transform your relationship with food and eating. This simple (though not always easy) practice has done nothing less than revolutionize nutrition therapy, when combined with evidence-based steps that shift lifestyle toward health.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a meditation practice wherein you

  • Adopt a meditative mindset. We humans have the capacity to change our consciousness from our everyday distracted state to a calm, clear, relaxed, and open one. With this change, you focus attention inward and relax.
  • Pay attention to what is happening moment by moment. Mindfulness is meditation while … whatever you are doing. So, you get curious about whatever you are doing—be it walking or eating. Slowing the process down so that you can get fascinated enough that you lose yourself—you lose track of time—is mindful, meditative absorption.

There is a particular attitude of mindfulness called nonjudgmental awareness. As you practice, you become aware of judgments, such as comparisons (for example: this food is healthy, therefore good; that food is less healthy, therefore not so good). In mindfulness, you aim for a direct, sensory relationship with what you are experiencing.

Now, apply it to eating.

In eating meditation, you slow down, breathe, relax, and enjoy your food. Just how might that unfold?

Here are a few steps to get you going.

  1. Make an intention to meditate while eating.
  2. Clear distractions (like TV, phones, internet).
  3. Eat with all five senses. Enjoy the beauty of your plate and each food item on it. Take in the aroma.
  4. Notice what thoughts and emotions come up for you as you practice. Breathe, relax, and resist the temptation to push away thoughts. Just note: There’s a thought. Feel it, honor it, release it.
  5. Chew and savor. Can you chew each bite 10 times? Thirty times?

Annie shares more about mindful eating:

Do you need to eat like this for evermore? Nope. Think of it as a practice—something you do regularly, and build as you might build a muscle.

When I teach mindful eating at Kripalu, I encourage people to begin where they are, so if you don’t currently do this practice, and you take a few mindful bites each day, terrific.

If you find that you are not practicing, break it down until it is ridiculously easy. Can you take one mindful bite each day? How about one mindful bite on your day off? One mindful breath? If you don’t have the 10 seconds it takes to take one mindful breath, well … you are indeed a busy person, and there’s hope for you yet! Try, try again.

What does the science say?

When I wrote my first book, Every Bite Is Divine, there really wasn’t much research explaining the mechanisms by which mindfulness eating meditation or yoga do what they do. We just knew it worked. Times have changed! Now, places like Harvard are summarizing the science of why mindful eating can be helpful for weight management. Cecilia Clementi of The Center for Mindful Eating compiled a comprehensive list of references on mindful eating last year. Check it out.

Find out about upcoming programs with Annie B. Kay at Kripalu.

This recipe was originally published on Annie’s website,

Annie B. Kay, MS, RDN, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is an author, nutritionist, Kripalu faculty member, and important voice in whole-foods nutrition and yoga.

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