17 Proven Ways To Mindfully Manage Your Food Cravings (2024)

Taming your food cravings doesn’t have to be a never ending struggle.  

Once you master the art of mindful eating, you can at last control mindfully your food cravings, gain a better relationship with food, and refine your well-being. This all connects to your success and happiness in life.

So let’s dive right in!

Proven Ways To Mindfully Manage Your Food Cravings

1. Learn about Your Food Habits

You must learn which unhealthy habits you have around food if you’re going to be successful in overcoming them.

Here are dysfunctional food habits to watch out for:

  • You overeat often
  • You eat randomly even when you’re not hungry
  • You cope with unpleasant emotions like anger, nervousness, anxiety, and stress with food
  • You please others by succumbing to their food preferences 
  • You think eating healthy is boring
  • You think eating as much as you can would make you happy
  • You mindlessly eat quickly and find yourself bloated most of the time
  • You’ve tried many diets which haven’t helped with your food cravings
  • You feel shame for eating too little or too much
  • You crave control over your diet and freak out at any mishap

Which of the above habits sound like you?

Now that you’ve discovered your food habits, you can identify why plus how they came up which helps you find strategies to turn them around. 

For instance, if you overeat often, you can start observing when you’re full and stop eating. You can also change mindless eating patterns by eating only when hungry. Instead of using eating as a coping mechanism for uncomfortable emotions, it’s best to find healthy ways of addressing your emotional needs. 

You’ll find more solutions to unhealthy eating habits as we dive more into mindful eating.

2. Spot the Types of Hunger

Mindful eating is knowing why you want to eat. This may sound absurd if you don’t know that there are different types of hunger. And that not all need you to obey them.

So before you start eating, ask yourself which of these fits of hunger are you satisfying:

  • Nose hunger: Do you want to eat just because you sense the sweet aroma of food?
  • Eye hunger: Did you see food and then felt like eating all of a sudden?
  • Mouth hunger: Did you just remember how the food tasted and now want to eat it? Did you taste food and then wanted some more?
  • Stomach hunger: Did your stomach growl to signal you to eat? 
  • Emotional/Heart hunger: Are you experiencing emotions you want to alleviate with food?
  • Mind hunger: Did you think you should eat a specific kind of food or that time has come to eat and then you wished to eat?
  • Cellular hunger: Did you feel by intuition that you need a specific food in your body and then wanted to eat it? 

With time observing the different types of hunger you feel, you can address them accordingly. 

Make sure you satisfy all your hunger with healthy meals when you truly feel hungry. For instance, you can enjoy how your food looks fully instead of mindlessly putting it in your mouth. You can also start paying attention to the different smells the food brings to satisfy nose hunger and mouth hunger.

You can also ignore mind hunger when you’re not genuinely hungry and address emotional hunger with healthy emotional coping strategies.

Mindfully Your Food Cravings
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3. Pause to Identify the Feelings behind Cravings

Whenever you’re excited to grab something you crave, ask yourself “Why do I feel this craving?”

Are you trying to escape an emotion you find unpleasant? Are you trying to suppress your feelings with food? 

It’s smart to stop mid-craving to understand the sources of your feelings and therefore deal with them more appropriately.

When you face your negative emotions amid cravings, you’d often realize for example that you need a walk to clear your anxiety or a good night’s sleep to develop better ideas for your project. That food only gives you a health-shattering break from your fears.

With practice repeating this strategy, you’d find yourself becoming a better problem solver, more stable emotionally, and therefore more productive daily.

4. Train Your Mind to Wait On Meal Times

You know that tempting feeling to munch on snacks because you feel hungry a few minutes before mealtime. 

But giving in turns into a mistake since your stomach ends up filled with a snack and the balanced meal gets no sufficient space. Or perhaps you take your normal ratio only to overeat as a result.

Whether this scenario plays out often in your life or it’s something else that prevents you from waiting for your meal, it’s best to stop it. Or you can address your hunger with liquids like water and tea.

Either way, wait to address your hunger with meals.

5. Calm Anxiety before Eating Instead of Eating to Calm Anxiety

It’s enticing to jump onto something to eat in the hopes that anxiety would stop. And while it works after some time teaching your body so, it births a negative cycle.

However, mindful eating is about gaining peace of mind before eating so that you may be ready to enjoy your meal. And it can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths as a mindfulness practice to help focus on the present moment.

6. Take Moments to Appreciate the Food You’re Eating

Appreciation of food is all about mindful eating since it brings joy in the activity, and in the sharing of food with others at the table as well. It’s about being grateful for the thing that gives you strength and adds flavor to your life.

So take note of the texture, smells, tastes, and colors of the food. 

  • What do you like about the food? 
  • What amazing thing are you getting from the food? 
  • How does its smell make you feel? 
  • Are its combinations awesome?

7. Eat without Distraction

Mindful Eating
Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

This strategy is one of the most fundamental to practicing mindful eating. And it’s one of the hardest to apply especially in this fast-paced world.

But the obvious truth is, that eating while checking your social media is mindless eating. Eating while watching TV is the opposite of mindful eating as well. And all this promotes overeating, rapid eating, joyless consumption, dissatisfaction with hunger, and other harmful results.

Like all multitasking, eating while distracted isn’t productive.

However, you can practice mindful eating by putting away all distractions and conversing only with your food and dining companions.

8. Pause Eating between a Couple of Bites

To slow down your eating so you can take in the whole experience, put down your utensils in between bites. In such pauses, you can:

  • Contemplate how your meal feels in your mouth more
  • Know when you’re full much easier
  • Slow down your eating which prevents bloating and other digestion issues

Don’t depend on the amount of food on your plate to tell you when full. Listen to your stomach and stop eating when satiated.

9. Reflect on the Journey Your Food Has Taken to Your Plate

Especially while taking breaks between bites, take some time to visualize where your food is from and all the stages it has taken to reach your plate.

This strategy can help you:

  • Exercise gratitude to the one who nurtured the food
  • Appreciate the cook and their style of cooking even if that’s you
  • Identify healthy and unhealthy food
  • Make future decisions over what you’d like to get on your plate and in what state

While mindless eating can’t get you questioning the nature of the food you consume, mindful eating takes you through the whole journey to spot what to be thankful for and also what to watch out for.

10. Slow Down

I can’t emphasize this enough. While this tip may seem obvious or lightweight, it’s the core of mindful eating.

Without going slowly, you’ll definitely eat mindlessly ending up with:

  • An excessively full stomach since it takes around 20 minutes from when you start eating for your brain to signal that you’re full as research shows
  • A bloated stomach due to swallowing more air than normal
  • Digestion issues since inadequate chewing make up big, hard to digest food chunks plus carbohydrates and fats won’t digest fully since their digestion starts in the mouth 

While it may be tough to undo fast eating to start eating mindfully, it’s worth multiple trials to make it happen.

11. Explore How You Feel When You Overeat

One of the forces that make us change is the suffering brought by the lack of change. So use this human nature to refrain from overeating.

Whenever you’re done eating and you feel like you’ve overeaten, instead of dismissing it, actually explore how it feels. Guilty? That’s great. Uncomfortable? Even better.

I don’t enjoy that you feel guilty or uncomfortable, I enjoy that these unpleasant states would push you to want to change so bad that you practice all these other strategies that help you avoid overeating in the first place.

12. Take Note of How Your Body Feels When You Eat Certain Foods

Mindful eating is about knowing how foods make you feel also. This is great for spotting intolerances, addictive cravings, as well as food that nourishes your body best.

For instance, while Clara might drink two glasses of milk per day, the same isn’t true for Mike who’s quite intolerant to lactose. So when Mike takes two glasses of milk as Clara does, his stomach bloats and discomforts him all day.

See? If Mike didn’t observe this about himself, he would make no changes and as a result, face the torment of having a bloated stomach often. 

That’s why you need to know what each food makes you feel.

Food Cravings
Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

13. Be Patient with Yourself

Like every change, learning to eat mindfully is hard. It takes consistent practice to become second nature. But it’s possible for anyone.

Therefore, don’t think you’re hopeless even when you have numerous slip-ups. To make mindful eating stick, you have to practice self-compassion and much patience with yourself. You have to choose progress over perfection throughout the journey.

14. Work On Your Mental Health

If you want to get rid of some bad habits (including overeating or stressful eating), you need to constantly and consistently work on your mental health. Consult a professional coach or a psychologist to help you out on this journey.

Once you learn your stressors and triggers, you will be better at mindful eating. You will be in the driver’s seat of your life, and you won’t let food control it.

15. Balance Is Key

The end goal should always be balanced and healthy nutrition. If you eliminate some foods completely from your diet, you will crave them even more. That’s why you shouldn’t limit yourself but learn to find balance.

When you restrict certain foods, you’re just going to want them even more. That’s definitely not a good way to practice mindful eating.

16. Eat Foods That You Enjoy

While you shouldn’t eat unhealthy foods all the time and overeat them, you should still eat foods you enjoy. This will help you look forward to your next meal. It will also allow you to eat mindfully and think about the foods that you’re eating. You will be able to enjoy the incredible tastes of your favorite greens and fruits.

17. Know What You Eat

It’s important to learn about the types of food out there. Learn about nutrients and macros. More importantly, educate yourself about protein and which foods are rich in it.

Learn about processed foods and why they are bad for you. Focus on understanding the value of proteins, carbs, fat, vitamins, minerals, and everything that your body needs to thrive.

Mindfulness and Cravings – Final Pointers

Want to learn more about mindful eating? Stick with me a little longer.

Food cravings meaning

A food craving is a strong desire to eat particular food with or without feeling normal hunger. It’s also called selective hunger and is usually a result of physical, mental, or emotional imbalances. In its healthy form, a food craving can be out of cellular/specific hunger which seeks something that the body needs to attain nutritional balance.

Mindful eating techniques

Here are tactics employed in mindful eating practice:

  • Dysfunctional food habit awareness
  • Spotting emotional eating cravings
  • Delaying gratification till meal times
  • Emotional coping instead of emotional eating
  • Gratitude eating
  • Distraction elimination
  • Mindful meal breaks
  • Food journey reflection
  • Slow eating
  • Leveraging overeating discomfort 
  • Tracking results
  • Self-compassion

We talk about these techniques in depth above.

Mindful eating benefits

Mindful eating holds a myriad of advantages. They include:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved digestive processes
  • Optimal body functioning
  • Stress reduction
  • Decrease in binge eating and overeating 
  • Healthier food choices
  • Body, mind, and soul comfort
  • Improved hunger and fullness self-awareness
  • Heightened satisfaction with food
  • A more holistic approach to food

Science-based mindful eating exercise  – Mindful eating challenge

For 21 consecutive days, break bad habits in your relationship with food by being in the present moment during mealtimes and having put distractions away: 

  • Eat slowly and chew food well;
  • Take at least 20 minutes to finish your meal;
  • Put your utensils down between bites;
  • Notice and savor the food texture, smell, and taste and;
  • Focus on your body’s signals that you’re full regardless of the amount of food remaining on your plate.

Mindful eating app

Want to track your eating mindfully to lose weight and improve well-being? Sort this exclusive list to get the exact mindful eating app you need:

  • Eat Right Now by Dr. Judson Brewer, researcher, and professor at Brown University Mindfulness Center
  • Am I Hungry? Your virtual mindful eating coach
  • Mind Eating Tracker helps you follow through with these mindful eating strategies
  • Eat, Drink and Be Mindful is all about leading you through mindfulness training from eating for true hunger to reflection on the experience using notes

How do you overcome food cravings? How do you use mindfulness for cravings?

Here’s a recap of mindful eating habits to help you overcome food cravings:

  1. Learn about Your Food Habits
  2. Spot the Types of Hunger
  3. Pause to Identify the Feelings behind Cravings
  4. Train Your Mind to Wait On Meal Times
  5. Calm Anxiety before Eating Instead of Eating to Calm Anxiety
  6. Take Moments to Appreciate the Food You’re Eating
  7. Eat without Distraction
  8. Pause Eating between a Couple of Bites
  9. Reflect on the Journey Your Food Has Taken to Your Plate
  10. Slow Down
  11. Explore How You Feel When You Overeat
  12. Take Note of How Your Body Feels When You Eat Different Foods
  13. Be Patient with Yourself

Final Word

Ready to plunge into mindful eating? Perfect.

I hope this article provided you with all you need to start eating mindfully till it becomes second nature.

Remember: dealing with your emotions constructively is core to making mindful eating habits stick. It’s all about mental and emotional balance. And we have many resources to help you with that.

Thanks for stopping by!

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.