Tips for Mindful Eating

As Hippocrates brilliantly stated, “let food be thy medicine.” So, what are we actually putting inside of our bodies to fuel us, to carry us through our days and even to hopefully prevent disease and degeneration? And sometimes just as important as what we are eating, we need to look at how we eat those foods. Is it stuffed inside our mouths in front of a television or computer screen? What are the emotions associated with our meals? Is there guilt? Possibly shame? Or is it pleasure, joy and satisfaction? These concepts are at the core of what we now call “mindful eating.”

As a family medicine physician for Hoag Medical Group, I am fascinated with the mind-body connection. One area in particular is mindful eating which helps us become more aware of our thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions about food and ultimately, leads to a healthier relationship with food. Studies show when people slow down and consider the food they are consuming, they tend to make healthier choices. Which means they tend to eat less and this typically leads to weight loss and overall healthier habits to name just a few remarkable outcomes!

There are many approaches to mindful eating, but it can be summarized into these five basic concepts:

  1. Before grabbing something to eat, ask yourself why you feel like eating at that moment. Is it truly hunger? Are any emotions attached to the meal? For example, I just worked really hard and now I deserve a sweet treat?
  2. Think about the actual food. What are you about to consume? Where did it come from? Did the food need to be shipped from a different country or is it a local source?
  3. While eating, think about the textures and the scents of the food.
  4. Slow down! People are typically in a rush while eating. Perhaps set the alarm clock 10 minutes earlier in the morning, so you may start the day savoring the aroma of your coffee or tea.
  5. Think about what you are eating and if it aligns with your values. Did it come from a bag of processed food? Did it come from your garden or your local Farmer’s Market? Of course, having a non-judgmental approach is key.

The benefits of mindful eating are endless. If you can learn to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied, this typically leads to improved digestion, weight loss and an improved relationship with food.

Dr. Panitch works at the Hoag Medical Group Laguna Beach office and welcomes new patients.