Mindful Eating: A Powerful Tool for Health

Written By Christy Brissette

Mindful eating may sound like an abstract concept – but it’s a powerful tool that can help you connect with your body and understand what drives your eating habits. There are even a number of research studies that support the use of mindful eating as a tool to help with weight loss and to support healthy eating habits for management of chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease 1,2.

Christy enjoying some buttertart ice cream at a food fair in Saskatchewan.
Christy enjoys buttertart ice cream at a Saskatchewan food fair.

Mindfulness is about being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and actions, without judging them. Mindful eating means paying attention to your food – using all of your senses – and even thinking about where it came from. It is about relearning to trust your body and to listen for your body’s signals that tell you when you are hungry and when you are satisfied. It is a shame that so many of us are so disconnected from our bodies that we don’t hear these signals.

For many of us, eating has become something we do in a hurry, often while distracted.  How often do you enjoy a meal free from distractions such as the TV, computer, smart phone or a magazine? This mindless eating may be one of the reasons we tend to overeat: because we don’t take the time to taste our food and really enjoy each bite.

Geremy’s family enjoying some quality time together
Geremy and his family enjoy some quality time together at the dinner table

By taking the time to ask yourself: “Am I physically hungry, or am I eating for some other reason?” you can help identify your patterns around emotional eating when bored, frustrated or lonely.

During cancer treatment, food can take on new meaning. For people who struggle with eating due to treatment side effects, food can become just another part of treatment, a medicine rather than one of the joys of life. Mindful eating can be a powerful tool to help cancer survivors reconnect with food not only for physical nourishment, but to rekindle the enjoyment of eating.

Choosing foods that you enjoy and that are nourishing and preparing healthy meals are also part of the process of eating mindfully. 

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  1. Carmody, JF, et al., 2012. A novel measure of dietary change in a prostate cancer dietary program incorporating mindfulness training. J Acad Nutr Diet, 112(11), 1822-7.
  2. Praissman, S., 2008. Mindfulness-based stress reduction: a literature review and clinician’s guide. J Am Acad Nurse Pract, 20(4), 212-6.