Mindful eating has transformed the way I eat - why I reckon you should give it a go, too

Ever heard of it?

Mindful eating benefits: A plate of food
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Seen a friend raving about the many mindful eating benefits but not exactly sure what it entails? 

It's all too easy to think mindful eating only leads to better digestion and a healthier relationship with food, and while these two things aren't to be sniffed at, there are a whole heap of other plus points of taking a more considered approach to your relationship with food.

Mindful eating simply means making the conscious effort to pay more attention to the food you eat, what food your body craves, and how the experience of eating is. It's a counter to mindless eating, which normally consists of eating while distracted or otherwise occupied (we're looking at you, TV or work laptop) and paying little to no attention to what's on your plate.

While more studies need to be done, there's a growing body of research that indicates that paying attention to what you're eating can lead to healthier food habits. While the purpose of mindful eating is not to lose weight, as this 2017 study points out, "it is highly likely that those who adopt this style of eating will lose weight." Why? Because "the intention is to help individuals savour the moment and the food and encourage their full presence for the eating experience."

Pros of eating more mindfully include a deeper understanding of when you're hungry and full, more awareness of emotional triggers, and greater satiation after eating, with one study finding that mindfulness is associated with "less impulsive eating, reduced calorie consumption, and healthier snack choices." 

This might be particularly helpful at a time of year when routine goes out the window and Christmas treats take centre stage. Because let's be clear here: while December is undoubtedly about enjoying the foods you love, mindful eating promises to help you do so from a positive, guilt-free place. Sounds good, right?

If it's something you’re considering starting or have had your interest piqued, below, top experts share how to try it, as well as how to incorporate it seamlessly into your own life. Don't miss our guides to intuitive eating, what happened when MC UK Health Editor Ally Head tried an inflammation diet, and the best foods for hormones, while you're here.

Mindful eating promises to help you transform the way you eat - your guide

What is mindful eating?

Unlike other diets or eating protocols, mindful eating has little to do with what’s on your plate (although practising it can help you make balanced, healthy choices). Instead, mindful eating asks that you slow down and savour each meal, ridding yourself of distractions like mobile phones or computer screens. Sure,  it can be tempting to send that email now rather than in seven minutes when you've finished eating lunch, constantly churning isn’t doing your mind or digestion any good.  

Practising mindful eating habits can bring a host of good things, from improved digestion to better self-compassion and self-kindness – something everyone could benefit from. 

“Improving mindfulness around food and mealtimes is about rekindling a relationship with the act of eating, transforming it from a routine, often mechanical task, into an experience of awareness and appreciation,” explains Dr Romi Ran, author of Bite Sized Peace and a clinic psychologist who specialises in working with people with food, eating and body issues.

“The first step in this journey is to create an environment that encourages mindfulness. This might involve setting a serene table, reducing distractions like screens or stimulating conversations, and taking a moment to feel gratitude for the food before you," she explains. "Mindful eating is not so much about what or when you eat, but about how you eat. It's about truly experiencing your meal—observing the colours, textures, and aromas before you even take a bite. Engage your senses fully, and then, with great attention to the experience, begin to eat slowly.”

Why is mindful eating important?

For individuals without dietary or digestive conditions or concerns, the benefits of mindful eating can range from improved satiation to a better understanding of hunger signals and a greater degree of compassion and kindness.  

For those with sensitivities and digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), mindful eating can help improve not only the eating experience but also how your body reacts after you’ve eaten, too. 

“Mindful eating is beneficial for anyone, regardless of age or circumstances, but it can be particularly transformative for individuals with physical health conditions such as diabetes or digestive disorders like IBS,” explains Dr Ran.

Why? Well, because “slowing down and paying attention to how food affects your body can help you identify patterns or triggers that exacerbate symptoms," the expert explains. "Instead of relying on external eating rules based on your condition, tapping into your body's wisdom can guide you toward more suitable dietary choices. Moreover, by reducing the rush and distraction during meals, you also decrease the physiological stress that often worsens digestive issues,” she says. 


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8 mindful eating benefits

  1. A deeper appreciation of the food you're eating
  2. Better alignment with your body's hunger and fullness signals
  3. Feeling more satiated after eating
  4. Breaking the cycle of dieting and indulgence
  5. More self-compassion and kindness
  6. Improved digestion
  7. It can help with healthy weight management
  8. Better regulated eating patterns

“The practice of mindful eating deepens your connection with food, allowing you to fully savour each bite and genuinely taste what you are eating,” says Dr Ran. “It enables you to tune into your body's hunger and fullness signals, potentially leading to healthier portion sizes that align with your body's needs and can result in a more satisfying eating experience."

On a deeper level, too, mindful eating fosters self-compassion and kindness, she continues. "By consciously choosing to nourish yourself at each meal, you reinforce the message of your own worthiness," she shares.

How to start mindful eating

“To improve mindfulness around food, tune into your senses at mealtimes - the textures, flavours, smells, and colours of the food," advises Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. "This approach helps you appreciate and savour each bite, making you more present. If you tend to eat too little, think beforehand about a healthy quantity of food that would nourish your body. For those who overeat or binge, try to distinguish between physical hunger and emotional needs, and consider healthier alternatives to soothe yourself, like listening to music or taking a walk,”

“A simple first step towards mindful eating is to start eating more slowly and without distractions. This practice helps you tune into your physical fullness signals and reduces the likelihood of overeating. Avoid overthinking each mouthful. Instead, aim to be fully present with the experience of eating, enjoying each bite and acknowledging the nourishment your food provides,” Dr Touroni recommends.

Many of you know that trying to do four things at once is not the answer to, well, anything. This is also true of when we eat. So, if you’re trying to improve your eating habits without completely overhauling your life, the below will help.

Dr Mahrukh Khwaja, a positive psychologist, author of Navigating A Squiggly Life Toolkit and the founder of Mind Ninja reckons the below easy-to-incorporate tips when it comes to beginning or improving our mindful eating habits are a great place to start.

1. Be kind to yourself

"When we eat mindfully, we lean into self-kindness," she shares. "Recognise the importance of nourishing your body in the same way you would help a friend nourish their body - with nutrients, vitamins, water and kindness."

2. Take a seat

It might sound simple, but sitting it down to eat your food without multi-tasking is key for eating more mindfully - and yes, this even applies to snacks.


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3. Engage your senses

This one's important. The expert recommends trying to notice the texture, the sound of the crunch as you bite down, the smells, and each flavour.

4. Check in and note your thoughts

"Are they unkind to certain foods?," she asks. "Can you bring loving kindness to your inner dialogue?"

If all else fails, ask yourself this: what would you say to a friend?

5. Pause and reflect

"Halfway through your meal, take a break to check in with your body," recommends the expert. "Ask yourself this: on a scale of one to ten, how full do you feel?"

6. Keep practicing

Like meditation, mindful eating is a skill that takes consistent practice, the expert continues.

7. Don't restrict yourself

While you'll of course benefit from eating nutrient-dense foods, enjoying treats in balance is also important for your soul. Khwaja advises aiming for a balance of nutrient- and not-so-nutrient-dense foods rather than completely restricting any food types. 

"The restriction method often fails and results in you beating yourself up about this," she shares. "Long-term health focus also incorporates treats.”


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"I've been mindful eating for years now - and it's transformed my relationship with food."

Dr Khwaja is as much a teacher as she is a student, frequently incorporating mindfulness into her daily routine. 

“Mindfulness has been particularly useful in helping me navigate my life by encouraging me to slow down and reconnect with my inner experience, so much so, I make sure to do short mindfulness activities every day."

"These include brushing my teeth while honing into my five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste), taking a few moments to pause and breathe, and asking myself how my mind and body are feeling. It also helps me to switch off and, as part of my nighttime routine, I like to light a candle and practise a loving kindness meditation.”

Remember, mindfulness and mindful eating are not sticks to beat yourself up with. If you forget that you’re trying to eat more mindfully and find yourself scrolling through Instagram mid-bite, pop the phone down, take a breath and you’re right back at it. Plus, if meals feel too large a task to start with, snacks and cups of tea are also a great place to begin. These little moments, where you can slow down and reconnect with yourself can help reap the benefits of mindful eating without overhauling your entire life.

Can mindful eating help you lose fat?

If you’re thinking of using mindful eating for fat loss or for maintaining a healthy weight, you’re setting off on a great foot. Listening to your hunger signals and understanding when you’re full can help mitigate the effects of emotional or binge eating, as well as break the difficult cycle of restriction and indulgence. 

“Those who struggle with disordered eating, including binge eating, emotional overeating, or yo-yo dieting, may also find mindful eating valuable,” says Dr Ran. “Each snack or meal, regardless of its size or routine nature, offers a chance to check in with your body. Ask yourself, "How does this food make me feel? Am I eating out of necessity, hunger, or habit?". This ongoing dialogue transforms even the most routine meal into an act of mindfulness and self-care.”

Emotional eating, when you eat to soothe feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed or unable to cope, can be a conscious or unconscious behaviour. Slowing down around mealtimes and food can help to tap into whether you’re eating to satisfy physical or emotional hunger and make a decision in response. 

If you are struggling with binge eating or issues surrounding food and eating behaviours, there is always help available. Eating disorder charities such as BEAT, Seed and Mind all have operators who can help you.

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Does mindful eating reduce stress?

Slowing down, in our humble opinion, is never a bad thing, especially with the rates of stress and burnout snowballing among adults in the UK. According to research by CIPHR, one in five people in the UK feel more stressed than they don’t, with higher frequencies in women than men. Eating mindfully can help create pockets of calm within your daily routine. 

Sprinkling these slower, more mindful moments throughout your day can be an easy way to tap back into a less stressed state. But remember, mindful eating should not become another stressor to add to your plate. Instead, see it as one of the building blocks to feeling less overwhelmed generally, along with looking at your sleep quantity and quality, stimulants like alcohol and caffeine and regular exercise.

Morgan Fargo

Morgan Fargo is a freelance beauty editor and wellness journalist who has worked extensively on creating beauty and lifestyle content for titles such as Stylist Magazine, Women's Health Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Elle and more.