When you eat with intention, unlike in traditional “dieting,” there are no good or bad foods. The idea is to be aware of which foods make you feel well and which make you feel unwell, either physically or emotionally.
Mindful eating is simply being fully present while eating: you’re smelling the food, feeling the texture while chewing, and focusing all of your senses on enjoying the experience. Where we can get into trouble is when we eat for pleasure without mindfulness. For example, you may sometimes eat more than you need if you are distracted by watching television or reading. This is called mindless eating.
Focusing on the sensation of eating and the feelings you have while eating, can help you control cravings and overeating—two things that can improve weight management, diabetes, blood pressure, and general health.
Tips for Eating with Intention
- Instead of eliminating foods, start by adding healthy foods that make you feel well. When you feel satisfied by nutritious foods, you might find yourself less likely to reach for less healthy foods.
- Listen to your body. Our bodies have ways to let us know that a food is good for us. For example, healthy foods often energize you, while unhealthy foods may make you feel sluggish.
- Use the scale below to help you figure out if you are hungry for a snack or a meal, or if you are eating for a reason other than hunger.
Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale
10 = stuffed to the point of feeling sick
9 = very uncomfortably full, feel the need to loosen your belt
8 = uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
7 = very full, feel as if you have overeaten
6 = comfortably full, satisfied
5 = comfortable, neither hungry nor full
4 = beginning signs and symptoms of hunger
3 = hungry with several hunger symptoms, ready to eat
2 = very hungry, unable to concentrate
1 = starving, dizzy, irritable
Questions to Ask Yourself to Avoid Mindless Eating
- Am I eating because I’m bored/nervous/upset or for some other reason that is not hunger?
- Do I ever get so busy that I don’t know I’m hungry until I’m starving and have a headache—and then I overeat or choose ineffective foods?
- Do I clean my plate even when I get full before my plate is empty? If your answer is “yes,” use a smaller plate. Aim for about nine inches. For reference, a dollar bill is just over six inches long.