Mindful eating with celiac disease

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Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, with kindness. Learn about how you can apply mindfulness to eating.

Key points

  • Mindful eating involves minimizing other activities and distractions so that you are only focusing on eating.
  • The benefits of mindful eating include enjoying your food more, being aware of your body’s hunger cues and making the best choices for yourself about what to eat.

Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, with kindness. It involves learning how to focus your attention on internal (inside your body) and external (the environment around you) experiences happening in the present moment with some curiosity and friendliness.

Mindfulness can be applied to activities that you do every day, like when you choose what to eat, when you prepare food and when you eat. Mindful eating is one example of everyday mindfulness. With mindful eating, you focus on and enjoy what you eat and drink instead of multitasking. You pay attention, with curiosity, to what you see, hear and/or feel when you eat. Examples of mindful experiences include feeling hungry or smelling your meal.

Everyday mindfulness

How to use: This video explains what everyday mindfulness is, and how being aware of what is going on around you and inside of you can help make life more enjoyable and less stressful.

Why practice mindful eating?

Mindful eating might sound easy, but people often do not pay attention to their food and body when they eat. Life can be busy and stressful, and sometimes you may forget to eat or you might just need to eat quickly while you get other things done. You might also be distracted while eating, for example by planning the day’s activities, answering text messages or watching your favourite show. These distractions do not allow you to focus on eating your food and may cause you to miss what is happening inside and around you when you eat.

Benefits of mindful eating

There are many benefits to mindful eating, and they are different for each person. Some benefits may include:

  • Enjoyment. By practicing mindful eating, you will have a better idea of how much to eat, what foods make your body feel well and what foods you really enjoy. When following the gluten-free diet for celiac disease, it is important to be strict about gluten exposure, but it is also important that you enjoy your food.
  • Awareness. You can focus on your body’s nutritional needs and hunger cues instead of reacting to emotions (e.g., eating due to stress or boredom). You might notice that when you connect more with your body, you can better identify your body’s needs, like appetite, fullness or thirst.
  • Appreciation. With mindful eating, you may feel gratitude during meals. It can be helpful to consider the effort that went into preparing food, whether it was your own effort or someone else’s.
  • Use all your senses. You may be able to engage all your senses during mealtimes, which may be a whole new experience for you. This includes smell, sight, texture, sounds (e.g., an egg frying) and taste.
  • Relationship with food. With mindful eating, you may think or feel differently about food and nutrition. You may create a new relationship with food, which can be positive and less rigid.

Questions to help with mindful eating

Below are some questions you may want to consider during a meal or snack time to help you focus on mindful eating:

  • Where was the food grown?
  • What are the textures that you feel in one bite of the meal?
  • Did somebody make the meal because they know you enjoy it?
  • What does it smell like?
  • What happens if you chew slowly?
  • Do you notice or appreciate how your body just knows how to turn this food into fuel for your body?

Take your time while eating

If you eat very quickly, you may miss out on the enjoyment of food. You might have heard that it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message from your stomach that you are full.

It may help to take complete breaths between bites to connect you to your body when eating. Slow, deep breaths may also allow you to notice smells or other aspects of your food that can help in the mindful experience.

The mindful eating environment

Mindful eating involves exploring the environment around you when you eat. Do you eat with others or alone? Do you sit when you eat or eat on the go? What types of distractions are going on around you when you eat?

Here are some environment considerations to help you practice mindful eating:

  • Sit down to eat. This can help you focus and reduce distractions.
  • Just eat. Instead of trying to multi-task when you eat, for example by reading or sending texts, try just eating. You can even say to yourself, “I am eating”, to remind yourself that you are already doing something important.
  • Change the surroundings to make it calmer. A calm environment may help you want to spend a little extra time eating. Clear clutter from the table so that you have a place to eat. Consider what types of sounds you enjoy while eating. Maybe put on some music or have casual conversation with others.
  • Make small changes to your habits while eating. There may be small changes that you can make to help with mindful eating. For example, try putting your utensils down when you’ve put the food in your mouth and not picking them back up until you swallow. This way, you can enjoy the bite with all your senses. People often concentrate on their next spoonful instead of enjoying what is in their mouth. Some people try to get out of their habits by using their opposite (non-dominant) hand to hold a utensil.
  • Set a timer. If you don’t have much time and can’t practice mindful eating for your entire meal, consider setting a timer for 5 minutes to quietly eat and intentionally enjoy your food. You can also consider being mindful with the first bite of every meal or snack instead of using a timer.

Mindfulness is about the journey, not the destination

There isn’t one way or a “right” way to do mindful eating. There are many approaches to mindful eating, and each person can learn what works for them. Mindful eating is not meant to be another task that you feel you have to do every time you eat or drink. Mindful eating is about being aware of your body’s needs and the things you enjoy and allowing yourself the time to see, taste and feel while eating.

With a mindful approach, you may also start to notice more about yourself, like your thoughts. You may notice that you are judging yourself, others and situations. This is natural, and using mindfulness can help you approach yourself, others and situations with curiosity, kindness and friendliness. This means not judging yourself for how you think or feel. With mindfulness, you are just noticing things to be good or bad. As you slow down, you might notice things that are uncomfortable, neutral or pleasant. Try to approach all these feelings with curiosity, letting them just be there without having to push away anything you don’t like.

Last updated: June 27th 2023