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Nutrition expert Nancy Parkinson on the benefits of mindful eating

Mindful eating can help people cultivate healthier habits by being more attentive to the food they buy, prepare, serve, and consume.

Nancy Parkinson trims a tall herb plant in the Phillips Hall test kitchen
Nancy Parkinson with an herb garden in the dietetics lab at Phillips Hall.
Oxford and Beyond Excellence and Expertise

Nutrition expert Nancy Parkinson on the benefits of mindful eating

#Nancy Parkinson with an herb garden in the dietetics lab at Phillips Hall.()

The upcoming holiday season, combined with the ongoing stress of uncertain times, can be a recipe for disaster for those seeking to sustain or begin healthy eating. Mindful eating, however, can help people cultivate healthier habits by being more attentive to the food they buy, prepare, serve, and consume. It can also help people avoid the pitfalls around many fad diets, and it’s easy to get started.

Registered dietitian Nancy Parkinson, associate clinical lecturer of kinesiology, nutrition and health at Miami University, focuses on empowering individuals and communities to be creative with food and nutrition. She says:

  • “People may not realize how much food they can consume in a small amount of time. The process between feeling physical hunger and having a full stomach takes about 20 minutes. That’s how long it takes for the enteric nerves to send signals back to tell the brain that the stomach is no longer empty. By slowing down and being more attentive, we can avoid overeating.”
  • “Pay attention to your hunger cues, especially to distinguish between physical hunger and stress eating. Eating can become an unhealthy coping mechanism for people. Mindful eating helps you distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. It also increases your awareness of food-related triggers and gives you the freedom to choose your response to them.”
  • “There's a lot of fad diets and misinformation out there. Some fad diets are not healthy in the short-term or the long-term. Mindful eating is a way to bring your mindset back to a healthier lifestyle -- back to the basics -- and anyone can pick up the techniques right away.”

 Ways to incorporate mindful eating techniques include:

  • Become aware of your eating behaviors and surroundings. Who do you eat with? Do you eat alone? Instead of eating at random times and places, think proactively about meals and snacks.
  • Distinguish between emotional wants and bodily needs. Are you eating to satisfy hunger or because of an emotional trigger?
  • Pay attention to body signals. Do you physically feel full, yet continue to eat? Slowing down can allow time for body signals to catch up to the brain.
  • Reduce distractions while eating. Turning off the TV, computers, and phones can reduce the mindless eating trap that leads to consuming more than you might need.
  • If you are right handed then eat with your left hand. This will also help slow down your eating.    
  • Count how many times you chew your food. Increasing chewing will not only slow eating, it also aids in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and helps reduce gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • Take a sip of water in between bites of food. This will cleanse your palette and provide an aqueous solution to help you to detect more flavors.