The secret of mindful eating is just the simple task of bringing our attention to what is happening in the present. Usually we are on autopilot and not paying attention to what we are doing, our bodies or sensations.
Basics of Mindful Eating:
- Breathe and belly check for hunger and fullness before you eat. Take a deep breath and relax your belly. Check in with your belly and listen to what your body is telling you. To help when you check with your belly, use the Hunger Scale on the next page.
- Assess your food. Notice the color of the food, its smell, the texture and more.
- Slow down. Put down your fork or spoon between bites. Pause and take a breath between bites. Chew your food completely.
- Investigate your hunger throughout the meal, particularly halfway through. Be aware of your distractions. If you get distracted, bring your attention back to eating. Stop when you are halfway through a meal to take a breath. Observe the signs of fullness and continue eating if you are still hungry.
- Chew your food thoroughly. Pay attention to the sensations as you chew your food. Notice the variety of tastes inside your mouth and whether you enjoy what you are eating.
- Savor your food. Take time to choose food you really like and that would satisfy you right now.
By using all your senses, you will appreciate all the characteristics of the food. You are also more likely to saver the bites, eat slower, digest better and enjoy the meal more. If you catch yourself about to eat when you are not hungry, grab a glass of water, brush your teeth, leave the kitchen or find something else to do.
General Rule: The general rule of mindful eating is to eat when you are hungry and not eat when you are not hungry.
Hunger and Satisfaction Scale
Use the Hunger Scale below to help you determine how hungry or full you are. Each time before you eat, ask yourself “Am I hungry? What is my hunger level now?” At the lower end of the scale, you start at extremely hungry (1) and can move toward extremely full (1).
- Are you starving? “I don’t care what or how much I eat!”
- Very hungry. “I feel unfocused, irritable and low on energy.”
- Hungry. “I feel a physical sense of hungry. My stomach is growling.”
- Slightly hungry. “I am beginning to feel hungry.”
- Not hungry. “I am not hungry, but I am not yet satisfied or full.”
- Satisfied or full. “I am satisfied and full because of this meal.”
- Feeling full. “I am starting to feel full.”
- A little too full. “I am feeling uncomfortable.”
- Way too full. “I cannot eat another bite.”
- Stuffed. “I feel sick because I am so full.”
The best time to eat is when you have physical signs of hunger. This might feel like hunger pangs or your stomach growling (3 on the Hunger Scale).
It is ideal to stop eating when you feel full (6 on the Hunger Scale).
In other words, it is recommended to eat until you fall between 4 and 6 on the Hunger Scale.
Rev. 12/2020. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.