ALLURE MEDICAL - all•u Magazine all·u Magazine Spring 2018 - Page 15
practice in the Mindful Meal Challenge.
One meal per day is admittedly arbitrary.
Sometimes I find it convenient to do more,
sometimes I do less. But it’s a simple
benchmark that I find effective. You can
adjust it to whatever works best for you.
When you dedicate time to practice
a few things happen. A big one is that
when you’re eating a meal that isn’t your
dedicated mindful practice meal, you
don’t have to feel guilty if you aren’t eating
Relax. Enjoy yourself. Multitask. Eat a corn
dog while dancing the polka and watching
reruns of M*A*S*H. It doesn’t matter.
Mindfulness will likely trickle into your
other meals if you’re practicing regularly,
but there’s no need to force it.
MINDFULNESS BRINGS AWARENESS
TO YOUR UNCONSCIOUS HABITS
Another thing that happens when you
practice mindful eating is you learn to
observe all the quirky habits you have
while you eat.
You learn how your mind wanders,
what triggers you to eat quickly, that you
actually like Justin Bieber music more
than you care to admit, that you have an
incessant impulse to look at your phone,
that certain things consistently steal your
attention away from your present
experience, and how long it takes to bring
Once I became aware of this trigger I
was suddenly able to recognize it during
the eating process and resist the urge. I
now have a habit of setting my fork down
if I catch myself with a ready bite so I
can finish chewing before I swallow. My
regular stomach aches disappeared shortly
after. learning a language or playing an
instrument. Without practice your skill
weakens. With practice it comes to you
The awareness that comes from
mindfulness provides the pause you need
to intentionally choose your habits rather
than follow your impulses blindly. The short answer is that you need to
practice regularly, ideally one meal per
This is even cooler than it sounds on the
MINDFULNESS HABITS ALSO
There are some habits that tend to go hand
in hand with developing a mindful eating
practice: making better food choices,
avoiding emotional eating, setting up an
eating environment that promotes better
behaviors (e.g. sitting at a table, turning off
the TV), chewing more, eating at a slower
pace, stopping when no longer hungry,
The more of these habits you develop, the
less damage mindless eating will cause.
Like any habits, the ones you build as
a result of your mindful eating practice
ultimately become automatic themselves.
This means you are more likely to do them
during your normal meals without much
thought or effort.
This awareness is critical because
normally all these habits happen
unconsciously, dragging you along at their
mercy. When you become aware of them
through mindfulness you reclaim your
ability change your response. Moreover, eating itself eventually becomes
a trigger for mindfulness. As you become
aware of what it feels like to eat mindfully,
many of your more distracted eating
habits (like not chewing) start to feel
uncomfortable and you naturally snap out
of it and adjust.
For example, through mindful eating I
discovered that having a prepared bite
on my fork is a strong trigger for me to
swallow what is in my mouth quickly and
open it again for the ready bite. This is true
whether the food is fully chewed or not,
and causes me to eat much faster than I
should. The end result is that the more you
practice mindful eating, the less you
need to try to be mindful. It’s a positive
feedback loop that makes you more aware
of your healthy habits, while also making
the process itself easier. It’s almost a
mindless mindfulness, although not quite.
Mindfulness is a cultivated skill, like
This phenomenon helps us answer our
question of when to actively try to eat
The caveat is that it will be difficult at
the beginning and require willpower and
conscious effort. Yet as your practice
develops, it gets easier and comes to you
The cadence of your practice doesn’t need
to change, about one meal per day. But
over time you will likely become more
mindful in your eating and it will require
less willful effort.
That said, there is a limit to the magic. You
can’t simply instill a mindful eating habit
for a few weeks or months then count on
your brain to keep it there indefinitely.
Without practice, your mindfulness will
fade and more distracted habits will step
in to fill the space. Stick with it though,
and you hardly have to think about it.
Darya Rose is the
author of Foodist:
Food and Real
Science to Lose
com), one of
TIME's 50 Best
Ph.D in neuroscience from UCSF and
her bachelor’s degree in Molecular and
Cell Biology from UC Berkeley. Darya
spends most of her time thinking and
writing about food, health and science.