Did I Really Just Finish That Bag of Chips? Connecting the Dots between Mindfulness and Nutrition

Mindfulness is a buzz word we hear often, especially in the corporate wellness space.  As defined in the dictionary, mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”1

In today’s society we often are running on autopilot and have many distractions that prevent us from being completely present in whatever we are doing, including eating.  It is not uncommon to eat breakfast during a morning commute, eat lunch while working at a desk, and eat dinner while watching television or scrolling through our phone.  Eating while doing other tasks does not allow for us to be completely aware of our eating, which results in mindless eating.

Mindful eating is a helpful tool for people looking to lose weight, reduce food cravings and practice healthy eating habits.2 A research study demonstrated that mindful eating resulted in beneficial outcomes for people with type 2 diabetes, such as weight loss, improved Hemoglobin A1C over six months and healthier food choices.3 The practice of mindful eating is not only about making conscious food choices and being aware of what is on our plate.  It requires being fully present while eating by using all five of our senses and being aware of hunger and fullness cues from our bodies.2 Mindful eating challenges us to be aware of the look, feel, smell, and taste of the food, how we chew and swallow the food, and how our body feels before, during and after eating.  This helps us eat slowly and consciously, while paying attention to each bite. If you are eating mindfully, you will be less likely to eat the entire bag of chips!

On-Site Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) can help employees eat healthier not only by teaching proper nutrition and healthy food choices, but also by bringing awareness to mindful eating.  Mindful eating tips may include:

  • Assess your hunger level before you eat to see if you truly are hungry or just bored, stressed or thirsty.
  • Eat your meal or snack while sitting down without distractions. Enjoy your food without multitasking, including without watching television.
  • Use your senses to really tune into how the food looks, feels, smells, and tastes.
  • Take a moment between bites and check in with how you feel and assess your level of fullness.
  • When you finish eating, take note of how you feel. Do you feel refueled or sluggish?

Incorporating mindfulness into achieving nutrition-related goals can be a helpful tool.  It is no longer just about the number on the scale each week.  Introducing mindful eating techniques is just one way we are able to engage our clients towards a healthier life.

To understand how the Optum On-Site RDN program can help your employees live a healthier life, please visit optum.com.

1. Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mindfulness. Accessed July 26, 2017.
2. Eat More Mindfully. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2014-10/mindful-eating-at-meals.html. Accessed July 26, 2017.
3. Mindful Eating. Center for Young Women’s Health. http://youngwomenshealth.org/2012/12/27/mindful-eating/. Accessed July 26, 2017


About the Author:

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 1.30.56 PMAndrea Leary, MPH, RDN, CDN

Product Operations Manager, Optum On-Site Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Services

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