What Is Mindful Eating?

Alex Westphal - Health Coach
4 min readMay 5, 2020

What is it and why can’t I just inhale this taco, binge watch tv, and check Instagram at the same time?

Illustration: Christian Westphal

It’s something that not many people talk about, especially when it comes to their diet. For years dietitians and doctors have only worked on diets in terms of restriction. No this, no that. Take out this, do this instead. The problem with this approach is that what you eat is only part of it. How you eat can be just as important.

Taking the time to appreciate what you eat can just seem like another task to add to our already busy lives. I’m willing to bet the majority of you are reading this on the go and are worried about not having enough time to finish it, so you’re skimming through and cramming all of these words into your brain only to not understand or absorb any of it. Sound familiar?

We live in an ultra fast-paced world, and there aren’t any signs of it slowing down. We tend to eat for convenience & instant gratification rather than for nutrition and long term benefits. We wolf it down, cramming it into our mouths and swallowing as fast as possible so we can get back to whatever we were doing beforehand.

Many of us have lost that joy in preparing a meal and look to fast food and comfort foods that “taste good” but have little to no nutritional value and can even contribute to bad health and in some cases disease. You wouldn’t build a house with shitty materials, so why fill your body with processed foods high in saturated fats and other unhealthy ingredients. We put this stuff in our bodies, and we really are what we eat. So, why not choose high potency nutrient-rich whole foods that also taste great?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You can learn a new way of slowing down your eating where you actually experience the tastes and textures of your food and get those long term benefits. You can learn to see the food you eat as medicine that not only nourishes the whole system but also tastes delicious!

In my 20+ year experience as a chef and my training and research to become a health coach, I have learned firsthand the importance and benefits of mindful eating.

So, what is mindful eating, anyway?

Mindful eating means taking the time to honor your body by choosing high quality, non-processed, organic food and preparing it with care, eating it slowly and mindfully using all of your senses to really enjoy it.

It means being present to prepare and enjoy eating your meal without rushing or multitasking at the same time. It is a way of saying to yourself: “I respect my body enough to be mindful of what I put into it and of the way I eat.” I like to think of this type of eating as a type of meditation.

Mindful Eating can help you to:

  • Sense intuitively when you are full
  • Gain real satisfaction from eating
  • Discover new tastes and textures
  • Improve digestion
  • Pinpoint food sensitivities

But more importantly, mindful eating can help you see food as medicine, develop healthier relationships with food, and create healthy and transforming habits that enliven you.

“How do I start?”

First, let's just pay attention to what we are putting in our bodies. Focus on eating high quality organic whole foods rather than over-processed foods with long lists of ingredients.

Be present with your food, take time to prepare foods carefully, and be present when you sit down to eat. Don’t read stressful headlines or look at Instagram while eating. Put on some soft music and really enjoy the way the food smells, looks, and tastes.

And lastly, slow down. Chew more, put the fork down between bites and after you’re done eating. Check-in with yourself and see how you feel: tired, bloated, in pain, or energized and happy.

So, when do you know when you should consider mindful eating?

If you are asking yourself this question then the answer is probably “now”. But, if you aren’t sure, ask yourself:

Do I:

  • get bloated after eating?
  • scarf down your food like there is no tomorrow?
  • eat just to feel full not to enjoy the tastes?
  • have difficulty focusing or foggy brain?
  • feel lethargic after eating?
  • have allergies or hay fever?
  • gain weight easily, especially in your gut? And won’t come off with diet and exercise?
  • feel addicted to eating foods that aren’t healthy for you but you can’t stop?

If you answered yes to any of these, then it may be time to start practicing mindful eating.

What is deemed “Healthy” may be right for some but might not actually be right for your specific body type. We all process nutrients differently, some people need more protein, some need more carbs. Mindful eating brings awareness to our own bodies so we can decipher for ourselves what works best within our own metabolism.

If you are interested in learning more about your own body and what works best for you, then follow me on Instagram or go to my website.

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Alex Westphal - Health Coach
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Alex is a health coach based in Los Angeles, helping people tap into their personal power to take control of their health and nourishment.