The Importance of Mindfulness in Intuitive Eating

The Importance of Mindfulness in Intuitive Eating

Published on Monday, July 03, 2023 by Brooke Orr

We live in a fast-paced culture.  

Technology like Zoom and Skype have redefined the “board room,” providing a platform to work 24-7. Work, plus any semblance of a social life and family time, makes the quiet, undistracted spaces few and far between. It seems we have gotten used to, or even comfortable with, living in a headspace with multiple tabs open at once, but is that helpful or healthful? 

Kevin Paul Madore, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, states that multitasking can create interference among brain networks, which can lead to slower processing as well as mistakes.  His research also suggests that multitasking has long-term consequences as well. He explains, “Some research has indicated that chronic everyday media multitasking is related to errors in our ability to hold and use information in mind (working memory) and our ability to retrieve information (long-term memory)”.    

If multitasking is not helpful at work or even in everyday mundane tasks, how does it affect eating? 

Multitasking while eating blocks our ability to be mindful, which is one component of the broader philosophy of Intuitive Eating.  Evelyn Tribole, co-creator of Intuitive Eating, explains Intuitive Eating as including mindful eating- and defines “mindful eating as a process of paying attention (on purpose), to your actual eating experience, without judgment”. She goes on to say that the process of mindful eating can be complicated for people who are prone to multitasking. 

Do you remember the last time you ate your lunch while answering emails and surfing social media? You may recall the situation, but most likely, you do not remember what you ate, how much you ate, if the food was satisfying or pleasurable, etc. In fact, you most likely left the meal feeling unsatisfied and tired instead of refreshed and energized. If you are hoping to shift towards Intuitive Eating, it is important that you learn how to be mindful. Tribole says, “Intuitive Eating is a form of attunement of mind, body, and food.” 

To bring these three components together, do the counterintuitive and get quiet. Practice mindfulness at meals:

  1. Find a location away from electronics and unnecessary noise.  
  2. Take a few breaths to clear the mind and bring your attention to the physical sensations of your body (ex. Do you feel your feet on solid ground, or are your legs crossed-pushing together, do you feel hunger cues or thirst?)
  3. Involve the other senses-  for example, how does your food smell? Does it look appealing? Is there a sound when you unwrap your sandwich or take your first bite? 
  4. Don’t judge- just notice. Maybe you are having french fries that leave a grease spot on your paper plate or tomatoes that squirt juice on the table- try noticing these things without assigning good, bad, healthy, unhealthy, or any other outside things to the experience of what is.  
  5. Continue checking in with your body throughout your meal or snack, noticing any physical sensations.  

Mindful eating may not be possible at every meal and snack, but it is an important skill in the Intuitive Eating journey. The more you practice, the more natural it will become, and you will be able to bring the skills into group meals with confidence.  

Like so many things in life, it is not just what you do but how you do it. Writer Sara Garone cleverly coined the term “Vitamin P”-- to describe the growing research that supports that pleasure combined with food contributes to a greater nutritional and mental status. So grab a snack, get quiet, and enjoy- your mind and body will thank you!

  1. Why multitasking does more harm than good. Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute. (2021, May 19). 
  2. Tribole, E. (2019, April 11). The difference between intuitive eating and mindful eating. Intuitive Eating. 
  3. Garone, S. (2022, January 4). Why eating for pleasure is healthy eating. Healthline. 

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