Eating Healthy isn’t just about WHAT you eat, it’s HOW you eat.

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How many meals did you eat on the go today? Why did you choose the foods you ate? To satisfy your hunger or your emotions?

Today most of the discussion around healthy eating has focused on WHAT we eat, but what about HOW we eat? We all hear about the latest must have superfoods, and the healthiest whole foods to consume. But, we suggest you should also focus on your daily practices or habits around eating.

Our actions and attitudes around mealtimes are just as important as what we actually put in our mouth.

We use mindful eating – the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of awareness around your thoughts, emotions and experiences while eating. Mindful eating is a concept from Buddhist teachings, one that encourages us to connect deeply to our experience while eating.

By paying attention to the way our food makes us feel, we get to learn about what foods truly satisfy us. Specifically, we can be more aware of the choices we make to satisfy our hunger verses satisfying our emotions. Studies have shown that when we eat mindfully we consume less calories and report a greater fulfillment.

This concept was first featured in a 2012 New York Times article by Jeff Gordinier. He presented it as a challenge, encouraging his readers to try sitting down, away from distractions, with a meal you love. After each bite place the fork down and reflect on the flavors, textures and smells in minute detail. The article did provoke a few skeptical responses. Who has time to sit down and reflect over each bite? How can you eat without distractions with a house full of kids?

The fact is, mindful eating doesn’t have to be this intense to reap the benefits. Just taking the time to slow down and eat intentionally has been proven to help manage eating disorders, maintain a healthy weight and increase your overall sense of well-being.

There are a variety of ways to introduce mindfulness around mealtime. Here are five of our favourites.

Decrease Distractions

When we eat with distractions we tend to overeat. Try turning off the t.v and put your phone away. Aim to eat your meals sitting down at a table, not hunched over the kitchen counter or in the car.

Take your Time

Make a conscious effort to slow down your eating. Slowing down helps you savor your food and be more aware of your body’s cues – telling you when you are full. Chewing slowly also aids with digestion, so less upset tummy’s after mealtime. Putting your fork down between bites is an easy way to slow things down.

Pay Attention

How does this sweet potato taste? What does it smell like? The texture? If you scarf down a meal in five minutes you likely didn’t notice any of these details. Paying attention to details can be a fun way to introduce mindful eating to the family. Have everyone share their observations and opinions about the meal.

Check In

Staying mindful throughout mealtime can sometimes be a challenge. So how about checking in before and after your meal. Notice how you feel before you eat. Why are you eating? Hungry? Bored or stressed? Then after your meal check back in. Feeling satisfied? Guilty? Did you overeat and now feel uncomfortable? Checking in can help you learn about your food choices and the way they make you feel. You may be more inclined to choose a different option next time.

Know your Food

Mindful eating is really about establishing a positive relationship with food. Part of this appreciation is knowing where your food comes from.  Ask yourself – who grew this? Where did it come from? How did it get here? How old is it?

This is our favourite mindful eating practice because it can impact so many factors of your eating habits. Before you know it some of your shopping habits will change as you are more conscious about your food sources.

We don’t think all of these mindful eating practices have to be implemented at once or all the time for that matter. Rather, think of exploring each on their own and slowly commit to respecting, appreciating and taking time to enjoy your nourishing food choices.

In our Fit For Life programs we have a cognitive behavioral therapist who can help you explore mindful eating and create an individual approach that best suits your current eating habits, attitudes and lifestyle. As you learn to focus on HOW you eat, not just WHAT you eat, you will find yourself developing healthier eating habits that last a lifetime!

~Beth Hollis~

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