We asked 25 men and women in New York City why they thought eating mindfully (we gave a basic description of what this means) was so challenging. Here’s what we heard:
Eating mindfully is desired, but respondents cited a lack of time
“Pausing to paying attention to our food is just not part of society anymore. Let me give you an example. Right now, I step out of the office at lunchtime to pick up some food, bring it back to my desk, and eat it while I peruse the news on my computer or scroll through Facebook. Look, I understand that ideally I’d sit outside and smell the roses, but it’s hard to take the time to do that.”
“I eat most of my meals in under five minutes, generally while walking to the office or in the evening. Take a look around. We’re in New York, and people like me are constantly on the go!”
Current habits dictate eating behaviors, and it’s hard to change
“I don’t eat mindfully because I’ve never really tried. It’s a cool concept and would probably help me with eating healthier, but right now I’ve been doing my thing.”
“Food tastes good, and it’s really hard to stop eating even though I know I should.”
Society today doesn’t make mindful eating easy
“Portion sizes in this country have gotten out of control. And once something’s on our plate, it’s really challenging to say ‘Hey, I’m full I’m gonna save the rest for later.’ “
“I feel like we are constantly inundated with information on various supplements, diets, nutrition guidelines and recommendations. And it can be confusing. And when I tie that into making thoughtful food decisions, it’s hard because everything around me is like a shiny new toy. This candy bar, that juice cleanse, those sugary coffee drinks. When I think about eating mindfully, yes ideally I’d be able to plan out my food, but it’s hard when we hear so much conflicting information.”
So, what does this all mean?
Mindful eating is one important tool that nutrition professionals can instill in their clients to support them in developing a healthy relationship with food, which is critical for long-term impact. Right now, people recognize that their behaviors are less than ideal, but changing these will be challenging and take support and accountability. On a policy and society level, we should think about ways to encourage people to take a few minutes to enjoy their food, without multi-tasking or using technology.
Note: This post is not meant to be a representative, evidence-based study on Mindful Eating. Rather, we wanted to hit the streets to see what people (n=25) are saying about mindful eating and their understanding of how their eating habits affect their food choices, to understand some of the barriers in shifting current practices.