There are four main reasons for relaxed and mindful eating, explains Tanja Shaw.

There are four main reasons for relaxed and mindful eating, explains Tanja Shaw.

Relaxed and mindful eating

Slow down, enjoy the moment and eat better

  • Nov. 12, 2017 9:30 a.m.

Most of us love food. Yet, instead of paying attention to the foods that we eat, we often eat breakfast on the go, mingle over a tray of appetizers, or mindlessly polish off a bowl of chips while watching a movie.

Why is it that we can think about food throughout the day except when we are actually eating? If you mindlessly rush through your meal, you miss out on the opportunity to truly savour and enjoy each bite. You may finish your meal and want seconds because you missed out on the enjoyment of eating. And, because you missed out on the pleasure of eating, your body will still feel hungry.

First, I want you to know that you are not alone! But….Why are you doing this?

Because you are going to be focusing on how to eat before we can get to what to eat. Most diet plans focus on macronutrients, and what we ‘can and cannot’ eat- but miss out on the important habits when it comes to healthy eating.

There are four main reasons for relaxed and mindful eating:

• You will drastically improve the enjoyment that you get out of the food you eat. I want you to enjoy your food and to get the psychological satisfaction out of eating. If you are unaware that you just finished a bag of popcorn while watching a movie, you’ll probably end up wanting more popcorn.

• Digestion starts in the brain, and proper digestion happens in a relaxed state. When we eat on the run, or in any state other than relaxation (perhaps while working at your computer, or rushing in the morning to get your kids to school), nutrient absorption decreases, cholesterol levels rise, and our ability to actually digest our food decreases. This results in higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), inflammation, indigestion, bloating, gas, weight gain and nutrient deficiency. Personally I think happy digestion is a really good reason to slow down when you eat!

• With relaxed and mindful eating, you learn to tune into your body to see when you’re actually hungry instead of eating when you’re “supposed” to. If you think about it, so much of our eating is done due to reasons completely unrelated to actual physical hunger (e.g. eating when bored, eating when a certain time like lunch time hits, eating to not feel left out in social situations, eating with an association to an activity like watching a movie, eating in response to a positive or negative emotion etc.). Eating mindfully will be a way of progressively learning to tune back into physical hunger, allowing you the freedom to eat when you’re hungry, and then stop when you’re full.

• Mindful eating reduces the amount of unplanned eating. Even if your mind doesn’t recognize that you just ate 200 calories worth of food samples while shopping at Costco, your body still uses those calories, and will store them as extra fat if they are not needed. By following the principles of mindful eating, eating will become a purposeful and planned activity. Trust me- polishing off the left overs from your kid’s dinner, or licking the peanut butter from the knife after making the next day’s lunches will show up on your waistline. But is it worth it? Does the bites of food here and there really improve the quality of your life. Probably not.

There are four basic guidelines to follow while relaxed, mindful eating. I will also share some tips to get the most enjoyment out of your meal.

• Pause and calm down before eating. Take 5-10 long, slow breaths before starting your meal. Say ‘thank you’ for your meal.

• Eat all your food off of a plate or bowl, pre-portioned. Do not eat straight from the serving container.

• Take long, slow breaths in between bites.

• Eat all your food while sitting down. This means no samples while at the grocery store, sampling the leftovers from your family’s plates while cleaning up after dinner, and so on.

• Eat slowly…. Really slowly, and chew. I recommend 25-40 ‘chews’ per bite. Yes, you’ll be eating for a while.

Eating mindfully is a Cornerstone Habit

Eating mindfully is considered “cornerstone” or “foundational” habit. This means that these habits you can practiced anytime, anyplace, anywhere and they will always help you towards your goals.

That means that even if you are eating cheesecake, you can still practice eating the cheesecake slowly. The more committed you are to practicing this habit the better your “nutritional foundation” will be for the rest of your life.

So even though this all might seem very simple, trust that it’s one of the most important things you will learn and practice to build a long term.

Like any new skill, mindful eating takes practice. Start by aiming to eat mindfully for one meal per day. To eat mindfully, pay close attention to the colours, textures, tastes and smells of your food as you savour each bite.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!

Tanja Shaw is a health and fitness coach, Rotarian, passionate entrepreneur, mom, runner, and owner of Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle, and host of the Ascend Lifestyle Performance Podcast. Ascend’s supportive, knowledgeable coaches help clients live a healthier life and achieve their goals through nutrition, fitness and mindset coaching in a family-like private fitness studio. Learn more at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sheriff Avory Chapman was last seen Jan. 20 on Wellington Avenue in Chilliwack. (RCMP)
RCMP look for missing man last seen in downtown Chilliwack

21-year-old Sheriff Avory Chapman has been missing since Jan. 20

A worker is seen throwing a chicken in an undercover video in 2017 filmed by California-based animal rights activists Mercy For Animals.
Fraser Valley chicken abuse trial delayed until February

Originally scheduled for a jury trial, Sofina and Chilliwack company now face judge alone

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual interference in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

Recently elected NDP MLA Kelli Paddon is funding three $500 scholarships for students demonstrating a commitment to equity and social change. (Black Press file photo)
Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon funding Equity and Social Change Scholarships

One of the scholarships is open to any graduating student in the Chilliwack-Kent electoral district

Richard Procee is one of four candidates in the Feb. 13, 2021 Chilliwack school board byelection. Here, he poses at his store in 2017. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
VIDEO: Byelection candidate Richard Procee hopes to ‘introduce good conversation’ to Chilliwack school board

Procee discusses his involvement with his church, views on SOGI 123 and politics

Rose Sawka, 91, waves to her son through the window of a care home in Prince Rupert in October. Residents of the care home received their first vaccine dose Jan. 20. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
B.C. care home visitor access to expand by March, Dix says

Staff, residents, essential visitors top priorities for vaccine

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is looking into the death of man discovered Jan. 11 in east Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
B.C.’s police watchdog investigating man’s death in Maple Ridge

Man was found dead Jan. 11 after recent contact with police

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read