The rising popularity of ‘mindfulness’ in the mainstream is quickly co-opted by the diet industry. But at the core of mindful eating is not what you eat but how you eat. I’ve unpacked the difference between mindfulness and mindful eating so you can decide if this approach works for you.

What Is Mindfulness And Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness is a brain exercise to ‘tune in’ to your thoughts, emotions and experiences without judgement. The objective is a detached awareness instead of tumultuous reactivity [1].  

Mindful eating is based on mindfulness which is an element of the Buddhist practices with its appearance in Western psychology attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn who introduced the tenants of mindfulness into stress reduction programs [2].  

Mindful eating uses mindfulness to develop a state of awareness of the body’s cravings, hunger and satiety cues. This approach to eating can influence the emotional and physical response to food (aversion and cravings), eating behaviours (eating disorders and binge eating) and overall food intake providing a novel approach to aid weight management [3].

  • Being aware fosters an appreciation of food, its preparation and consumption  

  • Engaging the senses to make food choices that satiate sight, smells, sounds, textures and tastes

  • Eating slowly and without distraction to listen to hunger and satiety cues to guide decisions on when to start and stop eating

  • Acknowledging responses to food without judgement by noticing the effects food has on your feelings and emotions.  

  • Attention of thoughts and reactions can become a practice to develop more conscious and healthier responses and food choices so eating is satisfying and enjoyable to maintain overall health and well-being [4].

Lady in the moment

So CAN i Mindfully Eat McDonald's?!

Any food or drink can be used as an entry-way to mindfulness [5]. If you feel guilt or resistance, be compassionate with yourself as these barriers are common. Apply mindfulness to the situation and surrender any judgement that you have of the practice, the food, your attempt at mindful eating and instead sit with the emotions and feelings. Give yourself the permission to explore your likes and dislikes and return to the intention to cultivate happiness through mindful eating.

mindful eating practice:

Apply this simple practice to one particular meal or snack and see if mindful eating is right for you:

  1. Set a quiet calm area where you can eat and turn off any distractions and technology.
  2. Finding a comfortable seat, take a few deep breaths and attune yourself to any feelings of hunger or non-hunger.
  3. With a piece of food or drink that you enjoy and witness the sounds, shape, colour, or packaging.  
  4. Hold the food item. Feel and observe its texture, temperature and inhale its aroma and fragrance.
  5. Taking the first bite, become aware of any sensory responses, feelings and emotions it invokes.
  6. Swallowing the food, pay attention as it travels to your stomach and the physical sensations that arise.
  7. Eat slowly and rest your cutlery and hands between each mouthful.
  8. Pay attention to your hunger and satiety signals and stop eating when you feel full.

I Think I Get It! Or Should I Not Think? I Don’t Get it

Instead of playing Pokemon Go, checking your Facebook or staring at a screen, mindful eating asks you to focus on the sensory experience of your meal. In doing so you begin to develop an acute awareness of hunger and physical cues, feelings, emotions and responses when eating.

Mindful eating has helped treat many conditions, including eating disorders and various food-related behaviours and weight maintenance [1-5].

This practice in its true form enhances the enjoyment of eating without judgement and guilt. Enjoy your practice!


[1] O'Reilly, G. A., Cook, L., Spruijt-Metz, D., & Black, D. S. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions for obesity-related eating behaviours: A literature review: Mindfulness interventions for eating behaviours. Obesity Reviews, 15(6), 453-461. doi:10.1111/obr.12156

[2] Papies, E. K., van Winckel, M., & Keesman, M. (2016). Food-specific decentering experiences are associated with reduced food cravings in meditators: A preliminary investigation. Mindfulness, 7(5), 1123-1131. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0554-4

[3] Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Daley, A., Jolly, K., Lewis, A., Lycett, D., & Higgs, S. (2013). Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(4), 728–742.

[4] Eating Disorders Foundation of Australia. Mindful eating fact sheet. [Internet] 2014. [cited 2016 September 3] Available from:

[5] Mantzios, M., & Wilson, J. C. (2015). Mindfulness, eating behaviours, and obesity: A review and reflection on current findings. Current Obesity Reports, 4(1), 141-146. doi:10.1007/s13679-014-0131-x