As mindful eating becomes the latest trend, along with it comes confusion around its actual definition.  Here’s what it doesn’t mean.


Trends around mindfulness and mindful eating have been on the rise. In fact, Innova Market Insights named “mindful choices” the #1 trend driving the food and drink industry in 2018. While it’s great that these concepts are getting more attention, there seems to be many misinterpretations of what mindfulness actually means.

So what is mindful eating?

The Center for Mindful Eating (TCME) defines “mindful eating” as:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom
  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.
  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

In other words, mindful eating is being aware, present, and non-judgmental in the entire eating experience. It’s about learning to listen, trust, and respect your inner wisdom when it comes to food and eating, and starts from the selection and preparation of the food to the environment in which you’re eating. It’s not just the food itself.

So with all this talk about being ‘mindful’ while we eat, it’s also important to remember what keeps us from actually doing just that. Let’s take a closer look:

1. “Mind Full” Eating

Often times, people misinterpret “mindful eating” as “mind full” eating, or thinking more about food and eating. However, when we are “mind full”, our thoughts are likely to distract us from fully engaging in the eating experience. This makes it difficult to be present, another key component of mindful eating. That’s not to say that we’re not allowed to think; rather, it’s about being able to separate our thoughts from what we’re experiencing. A regular mindful meditation practice can be helpful in practicing this skill.

2. Slow Eating

Often when people are taught to “eat mindfully”, they are provided with tactics to eat more slowly: chew your food well, put down your fork between bites, use chopsticks, and “savor every bite”.

Eating slowly can absolutely be a part of mindful eating, but it goes beyond the behavior. Mindful eating is more about mindset and intention. Eating slowly can facilitate being more present and aware, but it is possible to engage in mindful eating without eating slowly, and vice versa. Try practicing “eating with curiosity”: what are your senses telling you about the food? What are the thoughts and emotions coming up as you choose, prepare and eat this food?

3. Eating Less

The most common misconception around mindful eating is that it will help you eat less. That tends to be a reflection on how our society conflates weight and health—”If it’s good for us, it must help us lose weight”, and vice versa. There are mindfulness diets, mindful eating meditations for weight loss, even scientific studies that link mindful eating and weight loss or lower weights. The theory is that when we eat mindfully, it takes less food for us to feel satisfied, and thus weight is lost.

TCME’s position is that mindful eating is not for weight loss. While it’s absolutely possible to lose weight when you eat mindfully, it is also possible for your weight to stay the same, or to gain weight. Again, there are many different factors that contribute to a person’s weight, many of which are out of our control.

Most importantly, mindful eating is about being in the present moment.

If we are focusing on a future outcome, like eating less, weight loss, or even feeling better, it distracts us from being truly present. It can also be difficult to remain non-judgmental if mindful eating is not producing the outcome that we want.

Instead, approach mindful eating like a science experiment — you start by gathering data, then leave the analysis at the end. If you are already coming in with a conclusion in mind, that will only bias the results.

Stay curious, and see what happens.

Adapted from the original article.

Vincci Tsui, RD is a former bariatric dietitian turned certified Intuitive Eating counselor and Health At Every Size(r) advocate. Based in Calgary, Canada, Vincci specializes in helping people untangle their messy relationships with food and their body, and works with individuals in-person and virtually through her private practice. Read more from Vincci at