Breaking Down Mindful Versus Intuitive Eating

by Megan Meyer, PhD
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Breaking Down Mindful Versus Intuitive Eating

During an average day, we make more than 200 food-related decisions. With so many decisions, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet, much less start or maintain a weight-loss plan. However, strategies like mindful and intuitive eating can be beneficial tools to help achieve your goals. Mindful and intuitive eating are often used interchangeably, but there are distinct differences between the two styles of eating.

Here’s the breakdown:

DEFINING & PRACTICING INTUITIVE EATING

Intuitive eating emphasizes eating based on hunger and fullness. It also focuses on listening to cravings and not restricting or labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” In using a hunger scale before and while you eat, it can help you determine how much food you need to eat and also help you identify when to stop.

1. NOTICE YOUR HUNGER LEVELS BEFORE EATING

Tune into your feelings of hunger by visualizing your hunger on a scale of 1–10, with 1 being starving and 10 being stuffed. This scale can help determine whether you need to eat a few bites, a snack snack or a full meal. Checking in with the scale can also prevent overeating.

2. NOTICE YOUR HUNGER LEVELS WHILE EATING

Use the hunger scale midway through a meal to see how full you are. By being more cognizant of your hunger levels, you can prevent overeating before it’s too late. Packing up what’s remaining is a way to enjoy your food later.


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DEFINING & PRACTICING MINDFUL EATING

Just like general mindfulness is all about centering your attention on one thing, mindful eating is about paying attention to the food you are eating. In practice, mindful eating emphasizes slowing down and focusing on the flavors, textures, smells and sights of food as you’re eating. Research has shown that participants enrolled in a six-week mindful eating program ate fewer calories and lost significantly more weight than those who did not participate in mindful eating.

1. ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS

This may be the most difficult aspect of mindful eating because many of us are tied to our screens. It helps to remember they’ll still be there after your meal. Limiting external stimuli such as your phone or laptop while eating enables you to enjoy the meal and feel more satisfied.

2. USE YOUR SENSES

When was the last time you used all of five senses while eating? Paying attention to taste, sight, touch, smell and sound is a way to enhance your dining experience, making you appreciate the flavors, appearance, textures, aromas of your food.

3. SLOW DOWN

While it may seem foreign to eat slowly, especially when you’re ravenous, this is another key component of mindful eating. Practice slowing down by pausing between bites or taking more time to chew.

Despite their different approaches, mindful and intuitive eating are complementary approaches to help establish a healthier relationship with food. If you’re starting out, try incorporating one of these tips and add more as they become habitual.

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