Font Size:

SBA Blog - Sheena

Mindful Eating

April 19, 2021

When you think about a typical day of eating, what’s your headspace like? Are you constantly thinking about other things while eating? Maybe you’re having a “deskfast” in your office while checking morning work emails or perhaps you’re having a working lunch trying to scramble to finish a project assigned by your boss while shoving last night’s leftovers in your mouth.

For me, I’m all of the above, but I’m also one to drift into the thoughts of my to-do list for work the next day while eating my dinner that took forever to cook.

When our MIND IS FULL of thoughts that are focused on things other than our food and current environment, it’s hard to be MINDFUL in our eating. At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What is mindful eating?”

Mindful eating is an eating experience in which we utilize all our senses during our meal or snack. It allows us to take time with our food, fully observing how our body’s senses are reacting to our meal, whether it’s feeling hungry, satisfied, tired, or stressed out. In mindful eating, we are “fully present” during our eating experience, without the distraction of a television or other interruption in order to truly savor our food in a non-judgmental way. This experience allows us to be fully aware of our eating experience and the amount that will satisfy us versus “mindless munching.”

When we’re able to engage in mindful eating, we often find ourselves surprised to be satisfied with smaller portions than usual. We’ve allowed our taste buds to really take in that richness from the ice cream we’re eating or recognize the various spices in the dinner we just made. Normal life distractions of busy work life or stress, in general, can keep us from engaging in mindful eating.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that is fast-paced and encourages eating while completing other tasks. We are taught by the diet industry to choose food based on diets, diagrams, or convenience versus tapping into our internal senses and cues of what our body is actually craving at the time.

It may feel impossible at first to engage in mindful eating when we have a jam-packed schedule.

I often challenge my patients to consider picking just one meal out of their day to practice mindful eating and gauge if they feel different during their eating experience. This could include feeling less stressed out, being more satisfied from the meal or snack they’ve eaten, or realizing they don’t need as big of a portion of a particular food because they were able to really savor what they’ve eaten and are satisfied on a smaller portion.

Another tip I often give to my clients as they initially engage in mindful and intuitive eating practices includes honoring their hunger and fullness cues. Don’t wait too long when you’re hungry. If we wait until we are overly hungry or ravenous, we end up choosing a food out of convenience and eating it very rapidly. Consequently, we will likely not stop eating until we are stuffed. When we address hunger in its beginning stages, it allows us to choose a food based on our cravings versus convenience.

I think we can all admit that food is such a wonderful vehicle for nourishment, celebration, and social activity.

As you continue to mold your long-term lifestyle changes through this Scale Back Alabama experience, I’d love for you to consider taking a stab at mindful eating. You may find yourself realizing that you’ve been in a pattern of eating when you’re not truly hungry or perhaps in a pattern of waiting too long to eat only to find yourself rushing through a meal out of “hangry” necessity.

The great thing about mindful eating is that it doesn’t necessarily involve changing the foods you’re eating, affecting your budget, or forcing you to cook more often. Instead, mindful eating is a thoughtful, deliberate approach to enjoying food for both nourishment and pleasure. It can help us to get more satisfaction from the foods we eat.

And I mean, who doesn’t want more satisfaction?!

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

February 18, 2020

Did you know that if we all ate and exercised the exact same way, we would still all look completely different? This is something I’ve had to remind not only my patients but myself when it comes to maintaining a positive body image while trying to lose weight. In my 10+ years as a dietitian, I have worked with patients who have decided to pursue a weight loss journey for a variety of reasons. However, regardless of the reason, maintaining a positive body image through the experience is important. One of my most favorite Health at Every Size (HAES) dietitians, Cara Harbstreet, often shares this: “When you think about the way you eat or exercise, ask yourself, ‘Am I doing this because I love my body, or hate my body?”

If we’re eating or exercising a certain way from a place of hate for our body, we’re likely to see our interventions as a negative experience such as depriving ourselves of certain foods, cutting out entire food groups, or eating at a very low-calorie level. In regards to exercise, we may see physical activity as punishment and not think to choose a type of exercise or activity that seems pleasurable. On the flip side, when we’re coming from a place of love for our body and overall body positivity, we may choose new dietary habits that focus on all the things we’re interested in adding more of to our diet, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, eating more home-cooked meals with our family, or thoughtfully drinking more water because we’re aware of its benefits to our body. Our physical activity choices from a place of love for our body might include types of movement that seem more fun to us such as playing tennis or going on a power walk outside with a friend or family member versus finding an activity that makes us feel miserable for the sake of calorie burn.

If you’ve joined the Scale Back weight loss challenge from a place of negative body image, this is a great time to challenge yourself to take steps towards a more positive body image. It may feel like you can only think more positively about yourself once you’ve reached your Scale Back goal, but the reality is, your worth as a person is so much more than a number on a scale.

One of my most favorite ways of maintaining a positive body image is keeping a gratitude journal about my body. For example, you may journal or state out loud that you appreciate your legs today because they’re helping you run after your grandchildren, or you appreciate your strong arms because they’re helping you haul that heavy frozen turkey you’re about to cook for a holiday meal. Another tactic I often suggest for positive body image is to surround yourself with positive people. If you’re constantly in an environment where people are making disparaging comments about their own bodies or what they’re eating, it’s likely that the negativity will rub off on you as well. Surrounding yourself with people who remind you of your worth and show you that you’re a significant contribution to their life can help reinforce your appreciation for yourself and foster self-love. Lastly, I recommend challenging yourself to be a critical viewer of social and media images. I often use the quote “comparison is the thief of joy” when it comes to looking at others on social media. Reminding ourselves that everyone is posting their “highlight reel” can help keep things in perspective while remembering that our journey to health is unique to everyone else’s journey because we are all different people.

sheena.jpgSheena Quizon Gregg, MS, RDN, LD

Registered Dietitian

Celebrated by Unilever USA as one of its Agents of Change in the nutrition industry, Sheena Quizon Gregg, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist and Assistant Director of the Department of Health Promotion & Wellness at The University of Alabama. Prior to working at UA, Gregg spent the beginnings of her career in the clinical setting working at DCH Regional Medical Center and Gadsden Regional Medical Center. Much of her outreach and clinical visits at The University of Alabama focus on eating disorders and helping patients re-establish a health relationship with food.

She currently serves as president of the Alabama Dietetic Association which represents registered dietitians across the state of Alabama. She has served as state Chair of the Alabama Obesity Task Force and as a 2015 Spokesperson for the statewide Scale Back Alabama program.

She has been quoted in USA Today College, Shape Magazine, and Women’s Health Magazine on the topics of fad diets, weight management, and eating disorders. She currently serves on the expert panel for

Page last updated: September 13, 2023