Mindful eating is one of the core practices of Pause Breathe Smile. When we eat mindfully, we bring all of our noticing to this everyday activity, intentionally paying attention to the many moment-to-moment sensations, thoughts, and emotions that are part of the eating experience.
The practice of mindful eating is a way to bring awareness and presence into an activity that is central to our health and wellbeing, but which we often do without a whole lot of awareness at all!
Mindful eating interventions have been shown to be effective for regulating unhealthy eating behaviours, with effects comparable to conventional diet programmes.1 Individual studies have demonstrated potential health-related applications of mindful eating interventions from weight control2 through to diabetes self-management.3
A much-loved activity for our PBS learners, mindful eating teaches children how to engage in the act of eating with more presence and awareness, using all five senses as they do it. By bringing mindful awareness to eating and delaying gratification, we give ourselves the space to make better and healthier food choices. Delaying gratification also offers the opportunity to practice and develop cognitive control skills that we know are crucial for future wellbeing outcomes.4
Another bonus of mindful eating is that it is shown to encourage healthy, regulated brain activity. It is thought that mindfulness works through increasing interoception (awareness of internal cues) related to eating, particularly feeling full.5 When children eat slowly with more intention, they develop the ability to notice when they are full and satisfied, which correlates with healthy brain activity and feelings of calm. The potential that mindfulness has to help regulate the stress response and bring the nervous system back into balance may also be influential in improving digestive function.6 Pretty cool!
- Fuentes Artiles, R., Staub, K., Aldakak, L., Eppenberger, P., Rühli, F., & Bender, N. (2019). Mindful eating and common diet programs lower body weight similarly: Systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews, 20(11), 1619-1627.
- Timmerman, G. M., & Brown, A. (2012). The effect of a mindful restaurant eating intervention on weight management in women. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 44(1), 22-28.
- Miller, C. K., Kristeller, J. L., Headings, A., & Nagaraja, H. (2014). Comparison of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Health Education & Behavior, 41(2), 145–154.
- Moffitt, T. E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., … & Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. PNAS, 108(7), 2693-2698.
- Warren, J. M., Smith, N., & Ashwell, M. (2017). A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition Research Reviews, 30(2), 272-283.
- Cherpak C. E. (2019). Mindful eating: A review of how the stress-digestion-mindfulness triad may modulate and improve gastrointestinal and digestive function. Integrative Medicine, 18(4), 48–53.