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.

Mantra Meditation: Art & Science for Mind-body Healing

Mantra Meditation: Art & Science for Mind-body Healing

Om gum



 Teaching recently on using intention, mantra and affirmation for lifestyle change, I was reminded why I love this delicious vibrational medicine. The room was filled with seekers, some of whom had chanted before, others who’d practiced reminiscent rituals like praying the rosary. 

 As we honored Ganesh (the beloved elephant-headed, mama-loving archetype of the tantric pantheon) through mantra, I could feel their voices as vibration in my center, deep in my bones. Sound emanated from within each being, voices distinct yet interwoven, forming a collective fabric tenting us in sound-song. It was a pulsing prayer to Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. Eyes closed, bodies swayed in open-hearted rhythm. The capillary-like channels (nadis, in the ancient language of Sanskrit) of our energy bodies plucked like strings, vibrating in mantra meditation. 

This article is a brief introduction to the rich energy medicine of mantra meditation. Please know that we just scratch the surface of this profound tool for healing in this article. Stay close to me, friends, to dive deeper! 

- Annie 

What is Mantra Meditation?

Mantra is a Sanskrit word that roughly translates as: Mind (Man) Free (tra).

Vibrational in action, mantra is chanted repetition of a sacred sound, or an affirmation with the aim of calming and focusing your mind. Doing that helps you shift to a more meditative state of consciousness. It often draws from words in the ancient languages of Sanskrit, Pali, or Latin, and is often a prayer, an honoring or request of a saint or an advanced soul. 

Mantra is a form of meditation. Meditation is a practice wherein you change your consciousness in order to achieve something. Meditative consciousness tends include a soft relaxed awareness, a focus (in mantra meditative the mind is focused on the sound or words of the mantra), a quiet yet attentive mind, and an attitude of kind compassion.

As a dietitian and yoga therapist (get to know me better here), I use mantra in my clinical practice to help you change your mindset, food choices and lifestyle choices such as moving more, managing stress mindfully and get enough constructive rest.  Practicing these shifts can help you address looming medical issues or to enhance your energy. I often use mantra in combination with setting intention (getting clear on what you are seeking or why you want to change), and with creating affirmations (intentions in present action). These add-ons help focus and charge your mantra meditation, and boost your likelihood of getting the results you seek.

Chanting meditation is well suited to people who struggle with the discipline of quiet stillness. If you have an ‘active mind’ that has trouble settling down, mantra can provide your mind a strong focus. One of my teachers calls it giving the mind a bone. That sounds right! Your busy mind has something to do.  Certainly if you love to sing, mantra meditation may feel joyful and natural for you. Now let's talk about the words that make up mantras. 

Each mantra is a poem or prayer. It has a focus. In the case of the Ganesh mantra, we honor the remover of obstacles and ask him to help us clear out the mental, physical and unknown cobwebs that prevent us from being in loving service to all beings everywhere. Ganesh helps us to let go. When we are able to let go, it's easier to embrace and reinforce the new, the wisdom-informed.  

 Western Science, Mantra & Meditation

Science supports the use of mantra and more generally, meditation, for a number of health conditions. Here is a brief round-up of the science:

A 2022 meta-analysis of mantra meditation for mental health suggested benefit anxiety, depression and stress. Effects tended to be small to moderate. Reviewers noted that Western science on this topic is new, and many studies are underway to explore the answers to the many remaining questions of just how contemplative practice does what it does, and interfaces with your brain and your life. 

The National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health (NCCIH) has reported that meditation is generally safe, and there is quality research supporting the use of meditation to address high blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia. There is limited science suggesting benefits of using meditation for pain and smoking cessation. 

There have also been some fascinating studies about how meditation impacts our brain. In one study researchers compared the brain images of 50 adults who meditate, with 50 who do not. Those who meditated for many years had more folds in the outer grey matter of the brain. Gyrification, the process of creating your brain's folds, may increase your ability to process information. 

Meditation may slow, stall or even reverse changes that take place in the brain due to normal aging. 

A JAMA meta-analysis suggested that meditation addresses stress and can reduce anxiety, depression and pain.  

A 2014 Indian review of meditation from a decidedly yoga-supportive perspective suggests that different mantras can create different effects in the body and life of the practitioner. This is in agreement with longtime Master teachers of mantra. 

The science of mantra and meditation is young - it's just getting started! Studies tend to be small and the research is outside of the usual research industrial complex. However, more bright young researchers are moving toward mindful neuropsychology now that Western science knows enough about the brain to move meditation out of the woo-woo shadows. That bodes well for yoga teachers,  integrative health pros, and people like you were are interested in accessible solutions that work

Neuropsychological mechanisms - how mantra works

If you think about a habit from a neuropsychological view, mantra makes sense as a change-helper. Habits are neural short-cuts. They are collections of neural pathways that fire together and remember.

Think about the habit of having a drink at 4p - the sacred hour of happy in my home growing up. Each day, my parents didn't need to check their notes on how to make a Manhattan or even to ask if the other wanted a drink. At 3:45 every single day, my Dad closed the door of his home-office, and the ritual began. It was automatic. The same co-firing happens when it's time to brush your teeth, or when you've had a stressful day and you remember that a glass of wine or piece of chocolate helped you feel better. The habit is formed, engrained.

Mindfulness meditation - paying attention to the habit in a moment by moment way - can help with the re-wiring. It has actually been shown to be quite effective. Mantra meditation is similar to mindfulness meditation in that it provides the brain the time and the cue to look at things differently. Mantra has a couple other interesting characteristics as well. 

Mantra is movement - vibration. Yoga provides a number of intersting ways to think about your human body, and one way is organized around a vibrating crystal (your bones). Chanting vibrates your body - check it out! All communication comes down to light and sound - both of which have frequency - waves. Vibrating your body - through song or chant - tends to feel good and help us to shake it off. Whatever it may be. And, if certain frequencies carry certain messages - they imagine if you start vibrating to peace, love and abundance. 

 Get Started with Mantra Meditation

Begin your practice by setting an intention. Setting an intention helps you to focus your mantra and brings the mantra deeper into your personal circumstance. Please note that this is how I, as a teacher-healer, work with mantra. 

Struggling to begin your intention setting? I can help. Scroll down to download my free workbook on this topic: 3 tools for Mindful Transformation. It’s seven pages that will take you step-by-step through setting intention, chanting a mantra, and then creating affirmations to help bring your intention to life. 

Annie KAy mindful transformation

Easy Effective Sanskrit Mantras 

Here are a few popular classic mantras that can benefit nearly anyone. You might chant one repeatedly as you walk around the block, or find a string of mala beads and chant the mantra 108 times. Several numbers keep coming up in the yogic world, and 108 is one of them. It is thought that if you chant your mantra 108 times, you will have touched each of the delicate energy channels (nadis) of your body with the vibrational energy of the mantra. If you chant out loud you're directing your chant to your physical body, chanting silently directs the chant to your mental and subtle (unseen) bodies. 


Popular Sanskrit Mantras: 

Om (Aum, ohm) 

Om is thought to be the source sound of creation and the universe. It is thought to be the source mantra from which all others arise. 

Om Shanti

Shanti means peace, and this mantra is a prayer for peace on all levels for all beings everywhere. 

Sat Nam

This mantra means I am the truth. Truth is my name. 

Om Namah Shivaya 

A bow to Shiva, the eternal observer, the meditative witness, the divine masculine, this mantra honors he who can help you to know your own divine nature. 

Om Shri Danvantre Namaha

A bow to Danantre, the celestial healer, and a prayer of healing and to draw to you your healers

The classical mantra meditations I teach are in Sanskrit. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to chant in Sanskrit to receive a benefit from mantra meditation. The medicine is in the repetition, held with intention and focusing your mind on the mantra. 

English Language Mantras

If Sanskrit mantras just feel funny, you might use the following phrases in the same way: 

I think I can 

Every Day in Every Way, I’m getting Better & Better 

May I be happy, healthy and free. May you be happy, healthy and free. May we be happy healthy and free. 

You might think about a sweet childhood song you learned long ago, or a spiritual hymn that moves you. Inspiring words and phrases are everywhere - google it! 

Find more mantras in English to lauch your day. 

Going Deeper - a word on Gurus, 

Anyone can benefit from chanting simple mantras with an open heart as a prayer. Traditionally, mantras were given to students by a guru. A guru is a spiritual teacher, who is hopefully an advanced soul. In the Western world of yoga, the guru-teacher model has suffered from a great number of scandals, usually related to a powerful person misusing their power and the responsibility that accompanies it.

Today, there are many master-teachers, some of whom are advanced souls, who acknowledge a need to "become our own guru". It's an empowered spiritual model of learning, and perhaps admiring a teacher while being aware of your own boundaries, and understanding that a relationship between a master (or the CEO of the yoga center), and their student or subordinate is inherently problematic ethically. There are widespread issues around this whenever power is at play - we humans seems to have a hard time with power.


Rhythmic by nature, master-teachers often tie mantra into astrology, the cyclical movement of the planets. For more specific or personal mantra development, your personal astrology and planetary astrology comes into play. It gets complicated. Just know that as you learn and practice mantra, much like yoga it is a long term ever-deepening practice. Likewise, numbers come into play.

& Numbers 

Certain numbers pop up over and over in the world of yoga, and in spiritual traditions. We mentioned chanting your mantra 108 times. The numbers 40 and 7 also pop up a lot. Why these numbers pop up is a lovely collection of stories and observations. Many of the spiritual traditions borrow these numbers from one another - there has been lots of sharing going on over the millenia! Suffice it to say, to do your practice daily for 40 days is a wonderfully powerful practice. As we think about mantra as a tool for healing, using the seven chakras, or the planets for various aims can make this practice powerful. Do you alwasy get what you want? Hell no! But as Mick Jagger says....

You get what you need. 

So, What's Next? 

Hot off the program press is a Mantra for Healing self-study blended (personal and group) online program.

Tara is the enlightened goddess of compassionate creativity. She can give you the energy, healing, abundance and empowered action to support your health and life.
Learn more! 

If you or someone you love is interested in working privately, check out Truly Nourished, a high-impact personal program that blends nutrition clinical science with the wisdom of yoga and meditation. Read more about my coaching practice. 

Ready to chat with me about your situation?  Reach out to my administrator Jamie to arrange a free discovery call.

Do you have a favorite mantra or song you sing to cheer yourself up, or keep yourself pressing on? Share it with us! 

Have you struggled to stick with your mantra meditation practice? Or, have your overcome mantra inertia? Let's share our experiences with mantra in the comments. 



Namaste friends!

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


How to Turn Holiday Frenzy to Reflection

How to Turn Holiday Frenzy to Reflection

I love the holidays. I come from a big family with classic Christmas celebrations filled with kids and board games and beauty and fun. My family still loves to gather. But now, I choose one of the fall/winter holidays (and Thanksgiving is so great for gathering) to be in the frenzy, and let the rest of the season be quieter – reflective.
As the wheel of the year turns, this is an auspicious time to reflect on 2015 and dream of the year to come. My newsletter this month focuses on that process – sign up this week to get it.
But first, how do we find time during the shopping and gathering to be reflective? To take stock of the year that was? Or, to just enjoy the moments of social fun that happen over these holidays.
In my world it only works with deliberate simplification – to cull extra travel, pass on finding the perfect gift and sending out the perfect cards to absolutely everyone, accept fewer cool projects, even minimize gatherings to those I really want to attend. I hold off on entering the holiday bacchanal of food for as long as I can…so even though I love a little soy nog in my coffee, and make a truly killer sugar cookie, I’m in no great rush to jump in.  Believe me, it’s coming, but my strategy is to delay the sugar! This year decorations are minimal, and mostly things I gather from outside.
Meditation is the key! Daily meditation practice is the anchor that keeps me out of the swirl of the commercial holiday season.
For my morning meditation this month, I plan to practice reflection on 2015. I’ll work on receiving the gifts I’ve been given, embodying ways that I’ve grown, and reflecting on times that I missed the mark or things did not go well, and learning from and clearing those experiences. I think of it as a process of putting the year to bed. Of digesting, clearing and completing.
There are certainly other years that I dive squarely into the center of the holiday frenzy, and that’s great, too. Certainly one way of doing the holidays is not better than another. We can each choose to what degree we’ll participate in the frenzy – and use the barometer of enjoying the season to let us know how we’re doing.
Are you aiming for a reflective holiday this year? How will your holiday unfold?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a program at Kripalu that I am leading with my friends and colleagues Aruni and Lisa called Self-care and Mindfulness through the Holidays. It launches the night before winter solstice and runs to Christmas eve. If you are interested in doing the holidays mindfully, this will be a few days of prayer and ritual, joy and laughter. We’ve planned a collection of activities to help us find our own way of marking this auspicious time of year. So regardless of your past or current holiday traditions, here is a place to come together to practice, reflect on the holidays, and have a great time.

Meditation improves gene expression

This year there are a smattering of studies suggesting that meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices improve gene expression. Gene expression relates not only to family traits like hair color, but to the smooth operation of every cell and tissue in your body for the rest of your life.

Gene expression and epigenetics

Epigenetics is the big news in genetics that no one seems to be talking about. Me and my colleagues at Kripalu, however, are very excited. The concept is that we each have an internal environment, and we have much more control over that internal “soup” in which our genes unfold that we’d thought, is good news for those of us in the yoga lifestyle world. Everything you do in life – the food you choose (and choose not to) eat, the way you work relationships, how you feel about yourself and everything around you – influences your internal environment. Epigenetics is the environment – the internal environment – you create through lifestyle.
There’s a shamanic teaching that you become the result of all the vibration you surround yourself with. So, love that car. Love that apartment, and really love all the foibles of your spouse. Life (and your health) will be better for it. This ancient teaching sounds modern and true in the age of epigenetics.
These are early, small studies but are fascinating enough to point the way for larger trials.  There is geek drama here. In one study, in the journal Psychoneruoendocrinology, a group of 19 people with a regular ongoing meditation practice were tested before and after a day of intensive mindfulness meditation practice. A control group of 21 people who did not meditate were tested before and after a day of leisure activities. At the beginning of the study, people in each group had similar test results for genetic markers.  After the intervention the meditation group had  significantly improved levels of  epigenetic regulatory enzymes, lower expression of pro-inflammatory and other chronic disease promoting genetic markers.
After one day.

The take home

Everything that you do matters. You create much of who you are by what you do and how you feel.  Eating a whole-foods plant-based diet, learning how to deal with the ever-increasing levels of stress in our worlds, and doing what you can to enjoy your life matters. There are a growing number of quality resources to help you – find an author or teacher of yoga, meditation or mindfulness that resonates with you, and practice.
Here are just a few:

  • Kripalu is filled with wonderful teachers, many of whom now have CD practices and books available in addition to offering workshops.
  • I love Sally Kempton. She has been practicing and teaching for decades, and has a rare combination of wisdom, kindness and clarity. She’s in the zone.
  • Then there’s me. My book, Every Bite is Divine uses yoga and mindfulness in combination with nutrition awareness to help find peace in the war on weight.
    • Yoga and Diabetes: Your Guide to a Safe and Effective Practice, my second book, with co-author Lisa Nelson, MD comes out this summer. More on that later.
    • I put time and energy into my almost-montly newsletter that aims to inspire and guide a mindful and botanical integrative whole-foods lifestyle. Yoga, Botanicals, Nutritional Science, Fun and Creativity. That’s me. Check out the newsletter here.
    • You might also enjoy:
    • Begin a yoga practice: tips for a happy introduction.