Mindful eating

My life has always revolved around training and racing. After training for more than 20 years, I believe I have perfected my race day preparation and execution, but most importantly, my pre-race prep.

In my teens and 20s, I was an avid competitive swimmer. After college I decided to try something new and sign up for my very first half-marathon. Soon after, I combined running with swimming to become a triathlon addict.

Between my transition from triathlete and full marathon runner I came to realize something. The foods I ate during race season not only affected my race performance but also fuelled a year-round obsession with food.

I decided to give it a try after hearing about mindful eating. This practice embodies many intuitive principles of eating, such as eating when you are hungry and not adhering to food restrictions. My energy levels and strength increased quickly. My mind was no longer occupied with food and macros.

You’ve come to the right place if you want to break free from the restrictive eating patterns that often accompany competitive sports. We’ll discuss mindful eating in this article. This includes the benefits and how to get started.

What is Mindful Eating?

In practice, mindful eating is relatively simple. The practice of mindfulness is simply the act of bringing your awareness to the moment and not living life on autopilot.

Mindfulness is more than your eating habits. Mindful eating is eating when you feel hungry, chewing your food and eating food that you enjoy, rather than aiming to maintain a constant calorie deficit.

Why practice mindful eating?

Mindful eating can improve mental health as well as physical health.

Often, athletes use diets or other restrictive eating habits to improve their appearance and performance. This can cause them to have obsessive food thoughts.

I cannot tell you how often I have met with other athletes and we’ve only talked about the food that we’ll eat after we finish our workout. Our conversations are 99.99% about food.

Multiple studies show that mindful eating improves depressive symptoms, low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Numerous studies have shown that mindful eating can improve depressive symptoms, low body esteem, dissatisfaction with your appearance, and disordered food consumption.


Many people try to lose weight by following restrictive diets, such as restricting calories or exercising on an empty stomach . These methods may work for some people, but there isn’t a one-size fits all solution to weight loss. In some cases they can even do more harm than benefit.

You’d think that mindful eaters would gain weight, since they are encouraged to not track calories, to eat when they are hungry, and to indulge in ‘unhealthy foods’ like pizza. Studies have shown that this way of thinking is false.

Researchers have found that athletes who adhere to mindful or intuitive eating principles, such as eating when they are hungry and not restricting their food intake, have lower BMIs compared to those who diet. These weight-related benefits of mindful eating also come with improved psychological health. (3)

What are the steps to mindful eating?

It is important to know what an example of mindfulness eating looks like if you are going to adopt these principles into your life. You’ll learn some easy steps to eating more mindfully in the next section.

1. Pay attention to internal hunger cues

When I am focused on my training, I miss meals or skip snacks. I ignore my internal signals, even though I am hungry. This leads me to binge eat later in the day. After a workout, my body is desperate for calories and nutrients.

Studies have shown that mindful eating can be effective in treating binge-eating disorder. (4)


I find myself often rushing into work after a training session with food in hand or eating an instant snack in my kitchen. Sometimes I eat while watching TV or I fall asleep on the couch. These two habits cause me to eat without thinking, and I don’t even realize what foods or how much food I am putting into my body.

You can easily develop a conscious eating style if you have a similar eating routine. You can start by putting your food in a bowl or on a plate, and then eating at the dining table.

3. Start with smaller portions

The brain can take up to 20 minutes before it receives the signal that your stomach is full. Overeating can be caused by eating too fast or having a large portion.

Start with a portion that is 60% smaller than what you normally eat. You can meditate on mindful eating after eating the first portion or take a few moments to let your brain catch up to your stomach.

You’ll be able to tell if you still need 40% of the serving after listening to your body. You may be surprised at how many times you don’t need it!

4. Eliminate Distractions

Before I became a mindful eater I used to use the time that I spent eating to watch television or to catch up with my emails. This disconnect from food is a major cause of overeating because we don’t pay attention to how full we are.

I became a mindful eater by slowing down and using all my senses while eating. To be present when I ate, I paid attention to the texture, taste, smell and temperature of my food. This level of present allowed me to be in tune with my own body and help me manage my binge-eating habit.


You might think of digestion as the process that occurs in your stomach after you have eaten. Chewing your food is a vital but underrated part of digestion.

I used to not chew my food properly, especially when time was a factor or I was standing up. It was a surprise to me that chewing food thoroughly could improve nutrient intake and reduce hunger between meals. This would make it easier for you to feel satisfied longer after eating. (5)

Some experts suggest chewing 32 times before swallowing, while others recommend aiming to make your food resemble oatmeal. You can make a big difference by adopting these methods or even creating your own.

6. Remember, you don’t need to “earn” your meals

It is easy to develop disordered eating patterns when you are used to tracking macros and calorie intake and output. The most common feeling is that you need to earn your food through physical activity.

After practicing mindful eating, I no longer felt the need to punish myself with exercise for what I had eaten. When I started to see food as self-care I was able to easily incorporate physical activity into my routine.


Adopting intuitive or mindful eating practices may help you if your obsession with food has gotten out of hand. They can improve your performance at races, but also make life more enjoyable between races.

I share with you my favorite mindful eating habits, such as eliminating distractions and only eating when I am hungry. They don’t just stop there! You can start your mindful eating journey with the help of many books and online resources.

It may take some time to create a new relationship between you and food, but it is important to remember that there is no hurry. The end goal of bringing joy back to eating is a worthy one.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *