Do you love to eat?
You can love food and still eat right.
One technique to try is mindful eating. It’s not a diet or about giving up food, mindful eating is about truly enjoying food.
With its roots in Buddhist teachings, mindful eating can help you avoid overeating while also savoring the foods you love.
It involves tasting your food and being intimately involved with your food without being overly concerned with fat, calories, or even how much you're eating.
This way of eating brings you closer to what your body actually needs.
We live in such a hectic world, full of traveling, working and eating on the go. In order to truly mindfully eat, you need to sit down and put yourself in a place where you're able to engage in the process of eating instead of eating while you're busy with other aspects of your life.
It's hard to be in tune with how full you are, how your food tastes, the textures or the temperature of your food when you're distracted by other elements in your life.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, joins host Melanie Cole, MS, to discuss the benefits of mindful eating and how you can start incorporating this way of eating into your life.
Melanie Cole (Host): Do you love to eat? You can love food and still eat right. One technique you might want to try is called “mindful eating.” My guest is Marjorie Nolan Cohn. She is a registered dietician-nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Welcome to the show, Marjorie. Tell us what is mindful eating.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn (Guest): Mindful eating is about enjoying your food. It’s about tasting your food and being intimately involved with your food, so to speak, without necessarily paying attention or being overly concerned about calories or fat or even necessarily how much you’re eating. Mindful eating is a way of eating that brings you closer to what your body needs.
Melanie: How do you go about even beginning that? People look at their food, Marjorie, and they scurf it down. Mostly, I think of that as filler. I love to enjoy my meals. But how do you start with someone who really just looks at food as filler? How do you get them to pay attention, and as you say, really enjoy your food?
Cohn: Well, the first thing I always advise people to do is set the stage. We’re in such a hectic world. We’re travelling. We’re working. We’re eating on the go. In order to truly mindfully eat, you really need to sit down quiet in your environment. There can be TV or radio on the background, but you don’t want to be in a rush in going somewhere and eating on the go. You also want to have a full plate of food that you have set the stage for. You have your water. You have your utensils and you’re sitting in a place where you’re able to sort of engage in the process of eating, versus, eating while you’re engaging in other aspects of your life. That’s where you really start with mindful eating, because it’s almost impossible to be in touch with how hungry you are, how full you are, how your food tastes, the textures, the temperature, when you’re distracted with other things that you need to do in your life, like checking your email, or being on Facebook, or watching television.
Melanie: So, it starts with your plate. Even if you were eating McDonald’s, which we don’t certainly advocate, but you would need to set it out on a plate, put it out in front of you, get your drink, set yourself into that position for enjoying your food, correct? Make sure it’s all out there in front of you.
Cohn: Yes. You want to take it in. Mindful eating isn’t just about what’s in your mouth. It’s about how you put it in your mouth. It’s about how you see it; how you prepare it. In the truest sense, mindful eating is not about, like I said, necessarily the calories or what you’re eating. Of course, being mindful, we can take that to the next level and you also want to be mindful of the nutrients in the food and how much you’re eating. But in the core, mindful eating is eating whatever you want by eating it in a way where you are actually tasting it; hopefully enjoying it. A lot of people I work with have come to realize, when they’re historically been in the perspective of what you -- the fast chowing down sort of experience that you referenced, is they don’t necessarily enjoy their food. They don’t necessarily even like the food that they’re buying on a regular basis to eat, because they’re not paying attention to it.
Melanie: I think that’s just sad, because food is one of the great pleasures of life. How can we incorporate mindful eating with healthy eating, so that it can, maybe, work for weight loss or just getting healthier, feeling better, having more energy? Put them together for us, Marjorie?
Cohn: Well, actually, research shows that mindful eating, regardless of what you’re eating, does help with weight loss very directly. There’s a cause and effect nature to it. And when anyone is eating and enjoying their food, paying attention to it, and taking their time to eat, we naturally feel full quicker. Now, there are a lot of reasons for that. Part of that is hormonal. Our bodies register fullness after a certain time period, and if you’re taking your time in eating slowly, it’s going to decrease the amount that you’re eating. And also, part of it is the enjoyment aspect of it. When you’re enjoying your food, you naturally want to eat less of it. You don’t need to eat as much. Also, if you know what you like and you’re eating something that you’re enjoying, you’re not left at the end of the meal or at the end of a snack feeling like you’re not satisfied. Feeling satisfied after a meal isn’t just about feeling full. It’s about enjoying your meal and tasting it too. So, mindful eating helps on many different levels, both physical, as well as psychological and emotional with our food and you naturally will eat less. Also, if you’re mindfully choosing what you want to eat, paying attention to your cravings – do I want something warm, do I want something salty, do I want something crunchy today – you’re also going to have more satisfaction from that meal or snack, and therefore, naturally, need to eat less of it.
Melanie: Where does preparation come in to all of this, being somebody who prepares the food, cooks the food, takes time, even grows your own food and that whole process, how does that fit in to the realm of mindful eating?
Cohn: Well, when you are preparing your food, even if you have some sort of vegetable garden in your backyard, you could really think about what you’re going to prepare and how you’re going to prepare it. I think mindful eating has been lost in the shuffle of convenience food and a fast-paced life. I’m the primary cook in my household and I really need to think about what is my family going to eat tonight, what are we going to have for the rest of the week, and set it up mindfully on Monday morning or Sunday; how the week is going to go and what I’m going to make each day. That’s a way of mindfully preparing your menu for the week. It’s not necessarily just what am I eating right now, but how am I going to do this in effective way moving forward, so that it’s cost effective; so that my food doesn’t spoil; so that it’s convenient, and on the nights where I work late, I have leftovers instead of preparing from scratch. It’s a mindful process that goes even beyond the actual eating.
Melanie: I think that’s so important and such good information. Give us your best advice on mindful eating and the ways that we can really start right now today, Marjorie, and incorporate it into our lives.
Cohn: What you can start with today is setting the scene, just sitting down, taking an extra 10, 15 ideally, 20 minutes to eat a meal. Shut down the distraction and really taste your meal. Chew each bite thoroughly. Swallow it. Engage in how it feels going down into your stomach and enjoy the food. That anyone can do at any moment. Moving forward, thinking about your grocery list, what can you eat day to day, and being mindful about the future choices that you’re going to be making will only help in your day to day.
Melanie: That certainly is great advice. Give us one more tip for mindful eating, Marjorie.
Cohn: Enjoy. One more tip for mindful eating would be to hack ahead. Mindfully eating, healthfully, really involves a lot of thought. I think a lot of my clients get very discouraged when they find it difficult to mindfully eat, or they don’t like their food, and really, you can’t always choose exactly what you want in any given moment. And so, I think, finding some aspects of your meal or snack that you enjoy, even if you’d rather be eating something else, will help you engage with what you’re actually eating
Melanie: Thank you so much, Marjorie Nolan Cohn. We all need to try a little mindful eating. It’s a way for us to get healthier, have more energy and really feel better about ourselves. You’re listening to Eat Right radio, with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, you can go to eatright.org. That’s eatright.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening and stay well.