What Exactly IS Mindful Eating?

Filed Under: Mindful Eating

28 January 2016 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”

Sylvia Boorstein

Many people ask me what exactly is Mindful Eating? Let me start by explaining what Mindful Eating isn’t….

  • Mindful Eating is NOT a diet, a fast or a detox. Although, if you need to fast, you can approach the fast in a mindful manner.
  • There are no rules and restrictions. There are no forbidden foods and food groups are not eliminated. There is no food judgement in Mindful Eating.
  • Mindful Eating is not eating in the car. It is not eating with distractions nor eating whilst watching TV or working on the computer.  However, part of mindful eating is mindless eating and becoming aware of the when and why we eat mindlessly.

Now let’s look at what Mindful Eating IS

Mindful Eating is listening to your body’s cues of hunger and satisfaction.  It is eating with intention. The intention of caring for your physical, emotional and mental well-being. Mindful Eating is acknowledging our reaction to food we like, dislike or are neutral towards without judgement.

Mindful Eating is eating with awareness. Awareness of how you are feeling before, during and after you eat. Awareness of how the food feels in your body, your emotions and your thoughts.

Eating mindfully is an approach to eating that supports health and well-being as well as eating with the intention of deriving pleasure from the experience.

Making mindful eating choices is not about being a perfect eater.

It is not always possible to eat mindfully. Part of mindful eating is mindless eating and when that happens, letting go of the need to be perfect, offering forgiveness and accepting that some meals are not as we like. It is also the awareness of the effects of mindless eating on our bodies and on our mind and emotions.

Mindful Eating is practicing curiosity, noticing our judgements around food and then letting them go. Food is neutral, neither good nor bad, they just feel differently in our bodies.

In essence, Mindful Eating is more about how we eat, why we eat and less about what we eat.

Here are some of the many benefits to eating mindfully:

  1. You learn to mostly eat when you are hungry and stop when you have had enough.
  2. You learn to eat with awareness and slow down, which helps to savour your food which often leads to eating less.
  3. You enjoy freedom to choose all types of foods.
  4. You become aware of how different foods affect your mood and energy throughout the day.
  5. You develop awareness of your triggers to overeat or eat mindlessly.
  6. By practicing mindful eating tools it can lead to enjoying food more.

Here is a practical exercise you can try at home:

  • Choose one meal per day or per week to practice eating mindfully.
  • Ask yourself what would feel like a satisfying meal and prepare it.
  • Turn off all screens, phones. Put away magazines and books.
  • Set the table as best you can.
  • Tune in to your body and assess your hunger.
  • Select your portion size according to your hunger
  • Before eating, breathe and for the first 3 bites pay attention to the texture, the aroma, the flavour of your food. Pause in between bites.
  • Notice what is happening in your body, in your mind and in your emotions as you eat.
  • Try putting down your knife and fork as you chew your food, only pick up your utensils once you have swallowed.
  • Check your hunger levels as you are eating – divide your plate into 4 and at each fourth check in to see how satisfied you feel.
  • When you have had enough and feel physically satisfied, take a breath and put your knife and fork down.
  • Move into your next activity feeling nourished with mindful awareness.

“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

Karen L, Denver, USA

“I felt hopeless and helpless in my daily struggle with mindless eating for many years. Then I found Xen which is exactly what I needed! My decision to work with her helped me to finally repair my relationship with food. It's changing my life for the better, one day at a time. Now I have control over the food, instead of it having control over me, which is the way it should be. I highly recommend Xen to anyone who has a desire to overcome similar food struggles. Xen, thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Karen J, Colorado, USA

“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

Sweta Vikram, New York, USA

“Working with Xenia was amazing. She armed me with a bunch of tools to help me through difficult times. Xenia is the kind of person who really cares for helping you in the long run. Her work will forever have an impact in my life.”

Daniela Velásquez, Ottawa, Canada

“Working with Xen was a game changer for me. After working together for a few months my relationship with food radically changed. I no longer felt like a failure. I now have the tools to nourish my body with foods that feel good in my body. I don’t feel guilty about eating cake or chocolate, I also don’t overeat cake and chocolate. I no longer feel the need to exercise to compensate for my eating. I feel much more free around eating and I am more accepting of my body. Xen has a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to coaching and really supports you in the process.”

Rachel, Dublin, Ireland

“Working with Xen has been very empowering. Her approach is so refreshing from the usual. I have learned that I am in charge and that I get to choose what I put in my body and how to move my body in a way that I like! I get to make my own choices. It’s so liberating. Once you get a taste of freedom with food, there is no turning back to old ways! Thanks Xen for guiding me along the way to freedom.”

Heather B, Cork. Ireland

“This is the answer for those of you that struggle with food and all that surrounds it. Xenia said that I could make peace with food and it seemed at the time like an impossible dream. Turns out it isn’t. I recommend Xen and the mindful eating / intuitive eating approach unreservedly. If you have any questions about my experience, please get in touch. Thank you Xen. My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”

Michelle, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Xenia was a walking, living, breathing example of what can be done. I laughed and cried my way through a short course in this fascinating and invigorating programme with her, and have gained a designer tote full of coping skills that go way beyond containing kilogrammes. I feel infinitely lighter. I am doing this for me and, yes, you can do this for you too! And believe me, I’m cynical!”

Diana, Vancouver, Canada

“I don’t obsess about food like I used to. I am thinking differently about food and feeling so much more relaxed around all types of food. It’s wonderful to have pleasure and satisfaction from eating.”

Sarah, Illinois, USA

“I learned a new way of thinking about food. I have learned that food is not the enemy and that it can actually be enjoyed with no guilt.”

Sandy, London, United Kingdom

Certified by The Life Coach School Certified and Trained by The Original Intuitive Eating Pro Professional Member of The Center for Mindful Eating