Gina Crome by Gina Crome

March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to provide education around the pivotal role nutrition plays in overall health. The 2017 theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” which helps inspire us to strive to make every bite count. Small changes can add up to big results over time. For example, one approach that can have a positive impact is a concept known as mindful eating. Continue reading this mindful eating article to learn all you need to know about this concept.

Mindful Eating 101

People eat for many reasons. Environmental cues or certain emotions often guide our eating behaviors, including overeating and unintentional eating, even when we’re not physically hungry. Studies in eating behaviors suggest that when individuals are engaged in a distraction, such as watching television, their attention is drawn away from the food being eaten, which can actually lead to increased food intake (Hetherington, 2006). This, in turn, contributes to unintended weight gain, difficulty in losing weight and, ultimately, higher incidences of obesity.

Mindful eating involves being completely aware of your eating experience and perceptions in the present moment, thus helping you to disengage from unconscious habits and behaviors. This practice includes being aware of physical verses emotional hunger and using satiety cues to guide your decisions about when and how much to eat.

How Can I Practice Eating Mindfully?

There isn’t a right or wrong way to eat, but it’s important to understand that individuals have varying degrees of attention surrounding food intake. When you consciously direct your awareness to the immediate sensory experience that food brings about, you become more in tune to your body’s natural satiety signals. This helps you distinguish between physical versus emotional hunger.

As you begin to practice eating more mindfully, the hunger scale can be a helpful way to measure your hunger level, before, during and after eating.

The Hunger Scale

Rate your hunger level before, during and after your meal.

1 = Extremely Hungry          4 = Satisfied (not hungry nor full)      7 = Extremely Full

2 = Very Hungry                   5 = Mildly Full                                                                 

3 = Mildly Hungry                 6 = Very Full                                                                        


Hunger Level Before

Hunger Level During

Hunger Level After













Mindful eating takes a bit of practice to master. As you begin to hone your internal signals of satiety, you will be better equipped to minimize distractions and distinguish emotional factors that often cloud your better judgment. In doing so, you will be on your way toward creating a more healthy and satisfying relationship with food.




Hetherington, M. et al. (2006). Situational effects on meal intake: A comparison of eating alone and eating with others. Physiology and Behavior, 88, 4-5, 498-505.