Mindful eating has become a bit of a buzzword in the years since I became a Nutritionist. Of course, mindfulness has been around much, much longer – it has deep roots in Buddhism and Hinduism – and to my knowledge, mindfulness was first applied to eating in the 1970s. Since then, hundreds and hundreds of studies have been published, showing benefits of mindful eating in the treatment of eating disorders, promoting better overall dietary quality, reducing binge eating, increasing pleasure, reducing symptoms of IBS, diabetes management, and more.
Unfortunately, as mindful eating has become “trendy,” its popularity has also bred a lot of myths and misconceptions about the practice. Mindful eating is a fairly simple premise – it’s eating with the intention of paying attention by non-judgmentally tuning into food you are eating, and your experience of eating it. But diet culture did its thing, grasping onto mindful eating and turning it into a practice full of complex and time-consuming rules and practices.
In my experience, the biggest misconception about mindful eating is that it’s something you can do right or wrong. Remember, mindful eating is a practice, and it’s supposed to be a non-judgmental one! Many people think that if they’re not eating all their meals with zero distractions and meditating over every bite of food, then they’re not doing mindful eating “right.” That’s not exactly realistic! Real life means eating with distractions, whether it’s the TV, work, or talking with friends and family. Sometimes distractions are a necessity, and other times distractions make eating more enjoyable. It’s impossible to always be totally mentally present at your meals, but that doesn’t mean you can incorporate mindful eating tools.
With my clients, I feel it is important to talk about real life mindful eating – the simple tools you can incorporate to eat more mindfully, even when you’re eating a meal with distractions or have a lot going on. I decided to ensure this was done with all clients after I had a client to assured me she would never eat mindfully with her 4 month old! Lol.
So here it is.. the 3-point check-in.
How to Do a 3-Point Check-In
The 3-point check-in is a quick check-in you can do while eating. To do a 3-point check-in, briefly tune in to three different areas of mindfulness: your brain (i.e. thoughts), body (i.e. hunger or fullness levels), and senses (i.e. taste, smell, mouthfeel, etc). You can do it once during a meal, or multiple times depending on how much time you have. It takes seconds, and it’s a simple way to build in more attunement while eating.
Below I’ll go through each of the three points…
First, notice what thoughts are coming up around the food you’re eating. Thoughts influence behaviors, especially when those thoughts are rooted in diet mentality. Identifying those unhelpful thoughts gives you a chance to challenge or reframe them.
Notice how your body feels, especially hunger and fullness levels. Noticing hunger and fullness levels can help you decide how much you want to eat, or what you might want to eat a food with.
The last part of the check-in is tuning in to the sensory experience of eating a food – taste, texture, smell, sound. I like to call this wine tasting a food! You don’t have to fully tune in through a whole meal, but try to take a few bites where you really savor what you’re eating.
The more often you use 3-point check-ins, you’ll notice yourself naturally eating more mindfully. It’s a tool you can keep in your practice and use when you remember to!