Mindful Eating: The Art & Science of Eating Better

Mindful Eating: The Art & Science of Eating Better

Updated 10/16/2023

Mindful eating is a meditative practice that has the ability to transform your relationship with food and eating. This simple (though not always easy) practice has done nothing less than revolutionize nutrition therapy when combined with evidence-based steps that lean your lifestyle toward health.

So, What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a meditative practice wherein you:

  1. Adopt a more chill mindset. We humans have the capacity to change our consciousness from our everyday distracted state to a calm, clear relaxed, and more open one. With this friendly mindset, you focus your attention inward and relax. Just experimenting with adopting a curious, expansive mindset before eating will take you far!
  2. Pay attention to what is happening moment by moment. One definition of mindfulness is meditation while…(whatever you are doing). So, you get curious about whatever you are doing – be it walking or eating – and explore the activity with all your senses. Slowing the activity down so that you can pay attention, and get fascinated enough that you lose yourself – you lose track of time – is mindful meditative absorption.
  3. There is a particular attitude of mindfulness called non-judgmental awareness. As you practice, you become aware of judgments like comparisons (this food is healthy therefore good, that food is less healthy, therefore not so good, for example). In mindfulness, you aim for a direct, sensory relationship with what you are eating or doing. Use all your senses.

Can you be Mindful without Meditation?

I’ve been a student of consciousness for several decades, and my understanding of mindfulness has evolved through that time. As a classicist, I used to think that mindfulness was a form of meditation, and if you weren’t meditating, it wasn’t mindfulness. Well, my perspective has changed and relaxed with the times!

There is now a collection of practices – kindness, paying attention on purpose (in the words of Jon Kabit-Zinn), and simply slowing down – that yes, can be considered mindfulness activities. Anything that invites the shift to a curious, compassionate mindset – is very helpful, and takes you another step on the mindfulness journey. Many practitioners learned these skills – of changing perspective, of cultivating compassion – through meditative practice.

The answer is yes, you can be mindful without being in meditation. Just practice as you can, and notice what it does to your life. If it helps, keep going.

Now, let’s apply it to eating. Then, check out my mini-course to take you deeper into the transformative practice of mindful eating.

Now, Apply it to Eating

In eating meditation, you slow down, breathe, relax, and enjoy your food. Just how might that unfold?
Here’s a few steps to get you going:

  • Make an intention to meditate while eating. Clear distractions (like TV, phones, internet).
  • Eat with all five senses. Enjoy the beauty of your plate and each food item on it. Take in the aroma.
  • Notice what thoughts and emotions come up for you, as you practice. Breathe, relax, and resist the temptation to ‘push away’ thoughts. Just note – there’s a thought. Feel it, honor it, release it.
  • Chew and savor. Can you chew each bite 10 times? 30?

Here is my Kripalu video on Mindful Eating.

Ready to Practice?

Check out How to Eat: My Mindful Eating Mini-course

mindful eating mini-course self-study

Getting Started

Do you need to eat like this evermore? Nope. Think of it as a practice – something you do regularly, and build like you might build a muscle. Like learning to breathe the yogic way, Mindful Eating has a tendency to expand on its own. So, you’ll find yourself tuning in naturally to more of what you eat – or finding a moment of awakening – whoa, what I am eating or impressive that I can fit all of that in my mouth!

When I teach mindful eating, at Kripalu or another retreat center, I encourage people to begin where they are.  So if you don’t currently do this practice, and you take a few mindful bites each day, terrific.

If you find that you are not practicing, chunk it down until it is ridiculously easy. So, can you take one mindful bite each day? How about one mindful bite on your day off? One mindful breath? If you don’t have the 5-10 seconds it takes to take one mindful breath, well…you are indeed a busy person, and there’s hope for you yet! Maybe a little support, like with my Mini-course. Try try again.

What Does the Science Say?

When I wrote my first book, Every Bite Is Divine, there really wasn’t much research explaining the mechanisms by which mindfulness eating meditation or yoga, does what they do. We just knew it worked. Times have changed!

Now, places like Harvard and Yale are summarizing the science of why mindful eating can be helpful for weight management (1). Cecilia Clementi of The Center for Mindful Eating compiled a comprehensive list of references on mindful eating (2) last year, and the science is evolving fast. A recent study by the psych department at Bowling Green did a nice exploration of several Mindful Eating measurement scales, exploring how a group of people with obesity’s positive and negative emotions relating to food differed (3). This type of study helps people like me provide a better assessment and a better menu of therapeutic options to those I serve.


If You Liked This…Check out:

Healthy Mindset: What, Why and How to Develop Yours

6 Benefits of Mindful Eating

Yoga’s East-West Moderation

Let’s Get Coherent

What Has Mindful Eating Done for You?

We all want to know! What keeps you practicing? What’s your biggest challenge? Share your tips and reports!


  1. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School, Mindful eating may help with weight loss; July 6, 2011 https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/mindful-eating-may-help-with-weight-loss
  2.  Clementi, Cecilia – The Center for Mindful Eating; Mindful Eating References, Updated March 2017 
  3. Barnhart WR et al. Mindfulness facets differently relate to self-reported negative and positive emotional eating types in treatment-seeking adults with overweight/obesity. Eat Weight Disord. 2023. doi:10.1007/s40519-023-01578-.9. PMID: 37351755.

Holiday Stress? Mindfulness Can Help

Holiday Stress? Mindfulness Can Help

Updated 11/9/2023

Here it comes – the wave of winter holidays.

Time seems to speed up now, and the season can seem a bit sugar-coated and a bit stressful. Suddenly so much to do! Decorating, attending gatherings, figuring out if you should send cards or get gifts for the people in your life, and dealing with extended family can be overwhelming. If you have a business – double the decisions!

It doesn’t have to be quite so stressful. Holiday cheer doesn’t require weight gain (here’s a study from the National Weight Control Registry (1) about what works). Mindfulness can help you enjoy the holidays a little more, and stress a little less.

If you find yourself feeling holiday-rattled and you’re not basking in a glowing sense of cheer, the practices of mindfulness might help you take a break from expectations and reconnect with the reason for the season.

Can Mindfulness Really Help?

The short answer is yes. Practicing mindfulness – both the meditation practice and taking a more mindful attitude toward the activities of the holiday – can help. Mindfulness can provide that little shift in attitude that can be the difference between feeling overwhelmed and feeling excited about the holiday.

Mindfulness practice and attitudes can help you become more aware of your own needs as you move through the season of giving. It can make you more aware of your choices and give you space to choose in a more thoughtful way. Mindfulness can also help you to be a little easier on yourself for being human should you not create holiday perfection or if you over-indulge.

How does Mindfulness Manage Stress?

A mindfulness practice can help you step away from the fire, mentally and emotionally, and practice the power of pause – of taking a breath when things get overheated or overwhelming. When we get triggered by an unkind or unintended nastiness, or feel that we are not up to the job of holiday bliss, pausing for a breath tends to help us take a step back and see things in a little less pressured light.  Then, we can respond in a wiser, kinder way. This takes practice, my friends, but it is interesting how quickly the attitudes around mindfulness – kindness, compassion – can make life better and ease the tension of the holidays.

With a mindful attitude, we become more aware of the results of our choices – how our choices impact how we feel, and how our lives unfold. Eventually (with practice, self-compassion and awareness) the practice of mindfulness can be a framework within which we begin to choose to feel a bit better, then make the choices that will create that result.

As it happens, this particular time of year is excellent for cultivating quietness and a meditative mindset. It may be one reason that we can feel so overwhelmed with our over-commercialized holiday – that this season is, naturally, a time of slowing down and turning inward. The winter solstice is akin to the end of the exhale for the earth – a time of dark and quiet and reflection before the next year begins. In the Celtic wheel of the year, this is a time when the veil between worlds is thin – when you can “see” or imagine your way into your future, and “see” and appreciate your past. It is a great time of the year for honoring and integrating what has unfolded for you, and for visioning what may come. Mindfulness practice can help with that.

So, What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a meditation practice, and it is also the attitudes and mindsets that a meditation practice encompasses. In mindfulness, you:

  1. Adopt a meditative mindset. We humans have the capacity to change our consciousness from our everyday distracted state to a calm, clear relaxed and open one. With this change, you focus attention inward and relax.
  2. Pay attention to what is happening moment by moment. Mindfulness is meditation while…(whatever you are doing). So, you get curious about whatever you are doing – be it walking or eating. Slowing the process down so that you can get fascinated enough that you lose yourself – you lose track of time – is mindful meditative absorption.
  3. There is a particular attitude of mindfulness called non-judgmental awareness. As you practice, you become aware of judgments like comparisons (this food is healthy therefore good, that food is less healthy, therefore not so good, for example). In mindfulness, while eating, for example, you aim for a direct, sensory relationship with what you are eating. Cultivate an attitude of kindness – toward yourself and others.

How can I Practice Mindfulness this Holiday?

There are limitless ways to practice through this particular season.

Here are just few ideas:

Start or re-charge your morning meditation practice. If you are just beginning, start with just 5 or 10 minutes to sit in a quiet place, with music or not, and get quiet. You can focus your attention on your breathing – on the expansion of the inhale, and letting go of the exhale.  Alternatively, you can focus on your thoughts – noticing your thoughts as they arise, label them “just thoughts” and let them float away.

Practice mindfulness meditation while eating.

Practicing mindful eating can help you explore your sensual relationship with food as well as your hunger and satiety (fullness) indicators. When I see people eat more of their bites as a mindfulness meditation practice, they begin to recognize that their eating patterns are tied more to external signals – things like getting home from a stressful day of work or seeing one of the endless food-porn ads on TV. Over time, the practice of mindful eating tends to help people tune in more deeply to their internal guidance system with regard to hunger, fullness and how much food is enough.

Here’s my post on how that can unfold.

Mindful Eating: The Practice of Eating Better 

It’s difficult to practice mindful meditation while socializing – meditation just doesn’t work that way! But, you can be mindful of your breath, mindful of something kind you would like to say to someone or practice appreciation of your friends and family. With regard to food, can you simply practice what I call the power of pause – and take in the visual beauty of the holiday food?

Another practice you might play with this year is the mindful practices of kindness and of contentment. How might you be kind to yourself and others through this season? Is there something that you do, or way you are through the holidays, that doesn’t really serve you anymore?

In yoga contentment is a practice – one of my wise teachers used to say “Try less”. What a great motto for life!

Can we practice – intentionally – being content with things as they are right now – in their perfect imperfection.


  1.  Olson, Kayloni et al, Strategies to manage weight during the holiday season among US adults: A descriptive study from the National Weight Control Registry.  Obesity Science and Practice. 2021 Apr; 7(2): 232–238.
Practice Finding Peace – Begin Mindful Living Online Group

Practice Finding Peace – Begin Mindful Living Online Group

Mindfulness is the skill that seems custom-designed for modern life – so it’s popular.   I can’t tell you how many books I saw (many from new graduates of mindful meditation courses) – at the most recent Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND) conference. The more the merrier, really – all attempts at helping people begin mindful living are welcome!

I’m sure you’ve heard about the fascinating studies that suggest the simple (but not easy) practice of mindfulness helps with nearly any chronic condition, from stress to diabetes. True. But, you have to practice regularly, and I do think you have to practice reasonably well (not to be confused with perfectly – intention counts). For bet effect, you aim is to let go and be deeply and completely absorbed in what you are doing. I’m in the camp that thinks that mindfulness is a little more than just paying attention to what you are doing, though paying attention is a marvelous thing.

Here is a fun and easy solution to that tricky problem – each season, I hold an interactive online group called Begin Mindful Living. It’s been a hit! Because it works.

So, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness – a meditative practice of focusing on what happens moment to moment with an attitude of non-judgmental awareness – seems like medicine for what ails us in modern life. It can begin to change us from the inside out.

In the past couple decades we’ve learned a lot more about just how this happens. There are short -term neurological mechanisms, and longer term genetics at play in the inside-out change of mindfulness. There are also mindset changes that, over time, reinforce the primary two mechanisms of neurobiology and genetics.

Why it can be so hard to start & maintain?

Mindfulness is a way of being. It’s a big shift in how you approach life. I think of the things you do in life – your habits and choices – as a flowing river. You flow along, doing what you do. When you begin to practice mindfulness, it’s like putting an oar in the water – it starts to make waves. It takes energy and skill and determination to keep it going. Practice. That means it’s easy to give up when you don’t see quick benefits. It’s easy to give up when it gets a little challenging.

Community to the rescue!

Annie Kay

That’s why it’s great to launch mindful living in a group under the guidance of a skilled facilitator. Having the touchstone of others that will motivate you to try try again catapults the likelihood that you’ll keep it going. That you’ll press through when things get tougher.

Now, a word about online groups. I’ve given a number of interactive webinars for national health organizations, and conducted several of my own online groups. I love the magic that happens in groups and it’s the center of the work I do. There have been some recent advances in online interactivity that – while there is nothing like face-to-face – do the trick to connect you with others. You can see them, you can speak to them. It is an online kula – an online gathering. Overall, for the cost and time, it’s awesome.

Begin Mindful Living Online Group

I love this group!

Here is an easy way to launch mindful living that focuses on your self-care. Self-care is anything you do to do well by your whole being. It’s everything from making a balanced choice for breakfast – then enjoying every sensory bite of it; to taking a slow mindful walk in nature as you breath and receive the beauty of your surroundings.

I’ve begun to do a 4-week session every season, and our summer offering goes off between July 18- Aug 8th, Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm EST.

Join us!

begin mindful living





Each session will have a theme and your learning will progress over the month. One week before each session, you will receive a tip sheet with an introduction of the topic, an easy suggested practice and a journaling question.


Week 1: Intention & Mindful Practice

  • Get clear on why, and begin the experiment with easeful practice. 

Week 2: Mindful Self-care

  • Health care IS Self-care. It’s for everyone, even you. 

Week 3: Mindful Relationships

  • Others in our lives give us our greatest opportunity to practice! 

Week 4: Take it Forward into Life

  • Clarify what you’ve received, and set intention for moving forward. 

Each week, we’ll discuss overcoming challenges! 

I so look forward to seeing you in our mindful living kula! Here’s more information. 

Ready to sign up? Sign up now.

Have questions? Ask away.

Annie b kay

Gather ye Guides

Gather ye Guides

Gather ye Guides by Annie B Kay - anniebkay.com
Does everyone know by now that none of us are ever alone? That we all have guides – ancestral, animal, plant and angelic beings swirling about us pretty much all the time? Being introduced to my spirit guides has deeply enhanced my own life, and I encourage you to explore yours.
How do you find your guides? Here are a few ideas:

Pay attention

Is there anyone in your family (including pets!) that has passed on that you had a deep and special bond with, or who had a bit of the bodhisattva (love bunnie) in them? It is very likely that a part of them is still with you, but perhaps you are only aware of them on occasion in dreams. You can begin to connect with them in your dream (there are courses for that!) and you’ll often find that if and when you do, they become more present in your waking life.
You can ask, before you head off to sleep, for a dream that connects you with a guide who can help you at this time in your life. You can take notes – keep a dream journal of when you see them.

Go to where they live

From my experience, guides tend to hang out mostly in non-ordinary consciousness. I have met guides in dreams, when I was really sick and delirious, and when I was in an altered state thanks to medicine, breath work or being in a place conducive to it. So, the more time you spend in meditation, day-dreaming, sleep-dreaming and the like, the more likely you will encounter a guide.

Don’t be afraid to connect, but be discerning

Your guides are benevolent beings who want the best for you. They won’t be or feel creepy (though they may be funny or ironic), threatening or malevolent. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, I would recommend steering clear. You can go slow.
Once you have recognized someone, perhaps in your dreams, just say hello and because it is likely the family-member version, I don’t need to cue you on what to say. You might ask it a question, you might have a full conversation. If you do, remember to say thanks if you get a response to your query.

No rush.

If your guide doesn’t come to you today or tomorrow, no worries. They are there. I find that when I am open to them, they come wandering in. The animals, the grandparents, the being whom I don’t yet recognize but always knew was there. There they are. It’s just a matter of time. No rush.
Gather ye Guides by Annie B Kay - anniebkay.com


How Mindful Presence Transforms

How Mindful Presence Transforms

How Mindful Presence Transforms by Annie B Kay - anniebkay.com
This month, I’m launching a telehealth private practice. Very exciting. You can now work with me individually online. I’m beginning with Tuesday and Thursday afternoon/evenings for privates and going from there. Wednesday at 6:30 PM EST is an online Mindful Presence Group.
One of the reasons I am partnering with the platform that I am is the capacity to do online groups – we can cyber-gather to meditate, brainstorm, collaborate. The first one that I’m launching is a weekly Mindful Presence Group. I’m launching that one first because I think that it is a powerful basic structure that supports our becoming more of who we intend to be – it supports change. It helps manage stress, forms community, and nudges us along the practice of mindfulness meditation. To paraphrase from my meditation teacher:

Meditation practice helps us quiet down, lets us catch up with ourselves. It leads us to and allows us to gently rearrange, the center of our being. No one else can do this work for you. Only meditation can unlock these doors.

While it does not replace face-to-face connection, it is easy and cost-effective (about $20/session) to practice.

Here is more about the practice:

Mindful presence eases you into meditation! The practice of presence – when we get clear about what is going on, and speak it, particularly in a supportive group, helps us understand that we are not alone and that life is…beautifully imperfect. For everyone. We witness another’s experience silently, with open hearts. Being heard by others in this way can make it easier to move with confidence into a deeper appreciation of life.
Each group is limited to 12 participants.

Outline for the 60-minute call:

  • Annie: Welcome and meditation (10 min)
  • Each participant speaks for 2-3 minutes (Annie will facilitate – it’s easy AND speaking is optional…you can just listen if you prefer)
  • Annie integrates and offers a follow-up question or deepener
  • Group members share as desired, time allowing (Annie will facilitate)
  • Annie closes with a brief meditation

Basic ground rules of conscious communication:

  • Statements come from your experience: “I am experiencing…”, “I am feeling…”
  • Resist the temptation to cross-talk. While something someone else says may resonate with you, resist saying “I agree…” or “That reminds me of…”
  • When someone has the floor, we are silent witnesses to their report. We simply hold space for one another.
  • You don’t have to speak – you can pass. Too, when you are complete, let us know by saying “thanks,” or “that’s it.”

Give it a try!
It is a group meditation and conscious communication practice rolled into one.

Here’s the link to join in. 

How Mindful Presence Transforms by Annie B Kay - anniebkay.com