Mindful Eating: Resources for Mindfulness and Meditation

Can enjoying your food help improve your health? Surprisingly, that’s a yes. More and more studies are linking mindful eating with nutrition and health benefits. Now, think back to the best dinner you’ve ever had. Most likely, you were eating at a table, savoring the tastes, textures and aroma of the food, and eating in a relaxed manner. Maybe you were surrounded by friends and family. Eating with awareness is a big part of mindful eating.

We make food decisions daily, and they’re often not conscious. This starts with the moment we think about food, and goes through the decisional process of deciding whether to eat, what we choose, and how much and where we eat. It also includes our awareness of the sensations of eating, when we decide to stop and even how and when we clean up the food. On one hand, it’s very simple, but mindful eating has been linked to improvements in a wide range of health parameters, particularly diabetes, binge eating and weight management.

Lots of studies support the health benefits of mindfulness and meditation, with improvements in a range of conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety, IBS, chronic pain, addiction, psoriasis and many other health concerns. Mindfulness is defined by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, as if your life depended on it — and non-judgmentally.” That can be informal, such as paying attention to the warm water drops during a shower or the sound of the ocean’s waves, or a formal meditation practice. There are a wide range of meditation practices, including mantra meditations or chanting, active or movement meditations such as some yoga and tai chi practices, and relaxation. Another form of meditation involves awareness of sensations, and this encompasses mindful eating.

So where to start? Here are some of my favorite resources for mindfulness, meditation and mindful eating, and information on trainings for nutrition professionals.

Mindful Eating Books

But I Deserve This Chocolate!: The Fifty Most Common Diet-Derailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them by Susan Albers 
Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle by Michelle May 
Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling by Anita Johnston (my favorite) 
When Food Is Love: Exploring the Relationship Between Eating and Intimacy by Geneen Roth (she has a variety of books) 
Intuitive Eating, 3rd Edition by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch 
50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food by Susan Albers 

For nutrition professionals:

Am I hungry? Trainings for nutrition professionals, by Dr. Michelle May 
IntuitiveEating.org — website, books, free newsletter
Mindful Eating, Conscious Living 5 day training 
Mindful Eating: latest research and practical steps for better health (1 CEU course) 
Mindless eating (1 CEU course) 
The Center for Mindful Eating — free newsletter, other resources 

Self-Compassion

Dr. Kristin Neff 
Dr. Christopher Germer 
Center for Mindful Self Compassion

Free meditation and mindfulness podcasts, posts & other resources


Tara Brach — podcasts and guided meditations  

Hugh Byrne — audio talks and meditations 
Pema Chödrön — videos, articles 
Jonathan Foust — talks and guided meditations 
Dalai Lama — webcasts 

Insight Meditation Center of Charlottesville, VA (various teachers) 
Jim Gordon, MD demonstrating “Soft Belly” breathing 
Jon Kabat Zinn — videos of talks 
Rick Hanson — newsletters & videos 
Jack Kornfield — articles 
Belleruth Naparstek — articles, some free audio 
Sharon Salzberg — posts and podcasts 
Audio collection from Spirit Rock, renowned meditation center 

Paid resources

Awakening Joy Course (variable cost) and Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness (book)
Ram Dass Webcasts (donation required) 
Deepak Chopra meditations
Bernie Siegel — books, CDs, DVDs, etc. on hope and healing 
Sounds True — meditation/mindfulness resources 
Health Journeys — guided imagery and meditation CDs/mp3s 

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Cheryl Harris
Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Northern Virginia. She is a speaker, freelance writer, gardener and meditation enthusiast. Her website is HarrisWholeHealth.com and her food blog is GFGoodness.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.