Feeling Anxious Around Food? How to Begin Your Mindful Eating Practice

For years, I ate all of my meals in “auto pilot” style, inhaling everything quickly and without much thought. I would still feel hungry after eating, so I’d grab seconds or snacks and continue munching until that uncomfortable full feeling. I felt bad -- physically and emotionally -- but didn’t know how to stop this kind of mindless cycle around food.

Sound familiar? For many, eating can be a source of guilt or even a distraction. We tend to overeat, under eat, and worry about eating the wrong foods. After decades of feeling this way, I realized it was time to shift my mindset around mealtime so that food could finally fuel my body and bring me joy. I began practicing what’s called Mindful Eating, a more deliberate, centered approach to enjoying food.

Similar to other mindfulness practices, Mindful Eating is a way of becoming more present and connected, specifically while eating (versus that zoned-out snacking state we’ve all experienced). Think of it like a mealtime meditation, slowing down, breathing, and checking in with how you’re feeling throughout the meal. Mindful Eating isn’t a diet or an obsession with what we consume; rather, it’s a powerful way to become more aware of our experience while eating, to identify any negative habits around food, and to finally bring freedom and pleasure to eating.

When I first began a Mindful Eating approach, I started by eating one meal alone so I didn’t have any distractions. I would really savor each bite while trying to control the urge to indulge and hurry through. I took deep breaths and/or a sip of water between bites, chewing slowly to notice the texture and taste of the food.  

The key is to start slow, one meal (or snack) at a time. At first it was really uncomfortable -- my mind would start racing telling me to hurry up, and I could feel anxiety growing in my chest. But with time and practice, one breath and one bite at a time, those frantic feelings disappeared. I remember at one point, thinking, “Oh, so that’s what that actually tastes like!” It was amazing to become more aware and brought a much-needed sense of calmness and enjoyment when eating.

Through Mindful Eating, I’ve seen clients (and myself) gain a deeper appreciation of food. By reconnecting to the present moment, eating becomes a more sensory experience, instead of an anxiety-ridden rush. Mindful Eating allows us to notice the look and smell of the food we are about to eat, the loud crunching sound of nuts or the soft break of bread, the flavors and textures and how they feel on your tongue. When we stop the rush by breathing, chewing slower, and putting down our silverware in-between bites, we’re able to aid our natural digestion, recognize when we are actually hungry (versus grabbing that cookie because we’re stressed, bored or tired), prevent overeating, and feel the freedom to enjoy our food rather than hastily scarf it down.  

Just like an exercise routine or a meditation habit, Mindful Eating is a practice. It does take a bit of dedication, but once you’ve made it part of your daily life, this practice can be transformative.

As a certified Precision Nutrition Coach and someone who has experienced Mindful Eating firsthand, I’m happy to be your support system when you are ready to feel better around food. Together, we’ll put together an approachable plan that helps you shift your mindset about who you are, what you can do, and the day-to-day choices you make.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mindful Eating, I also highly recommend checking out Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, Well Nourished by Andrea Lieberstein, MPH, RDN, Mindfulness by Tessa Watt, and the Calm App’s Calm MasterClass in Mindful Eating.

And of course, you can always reach out to me for additional guidance or to schedule a consultation as you begin this life-changing journey!

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