How Tech Can Help To Start Practicing Mindful Eating

20 Minute Fitness Episode #89

As we all know, “abs are made in the kitchen”, meaning that if you want to see results, you’ll always have to pay attention to what you eat. But what if all the tracking and counting drives you crazy? You’re definitely not alone, and this is when you should turn to mindfulness.

Mindfulness, which roots Buddhist meditation techniques, can be practiced in many areas of life, one of which is eating. Practicing mindful eating will teach you how to be present, eat more slowly and deliberately, pay more attention to food and overcome emotional eating.  While this technique might not be a quick fix, it is definitely more sustainable than any crazy fad diets out there.

So if you want to make mindful eating a habit for a beneficial long-term change, press play to learn about the resources you should use!

Three Things You Will Learn

1) How To Build Up Your Mindful Eating Knowledge Base

Before jumping straight on to the mindful eating wagon, you should build a thorough understanding of what mindful eating really is. And to do this, what better resources could we recommend than some other fantastic podcasts out there?

The first addition to your library should be the Brain over Binge podcast by Kathryn Hansen. And the episode you should aim for is #42 The power of mindfulness in binge eating. In this episode, Kathryn interviews someone who used to struggle with binge eating for a long time and managed to finally overcome it with the help of mindfulness.

The next one on your playlist should be the Technology for Mindfulness podcast that introduces a range of topics where mindfulness can help you. The host doesn’t just “explore the intersection between mindfulness and technology”, but also interviews experts in the field of mindfulness, who all share their tips & tricks.

Finally, to learn more about various cues that can signal hunger and fullness, you should press play on the Just Eat It podcast! In every episode, the host, Laura Thomas, will help you build a more meaningful relationship with food and teach how to stay on top of your intuitive eating game.

2) Guided Through Mindful Eating

Once you feel like you get it all, you can actually move on to practicing mindful eating. While some might argue that technology takes away the whole point of mindfulness, at the first stages of your practice, it won’t hurt to use some mindfulness apps for guidance.

Smiling Mind is one of the most popular ones, with a massive database of mindfulness programs designed to deal with challenges in all fields of your life. After creating a profile, go in the “Find 10 minutes for your mind” category and look for the mindful eating session. This will help you take the first steps on your mindful eating journey!

If you’re looking for something longer-lasting, you can turn to the famous Headspace app. Headspace has a 30-day long mindful eating course that will explain to you why we eat the way we do and what drives our different choices when it comes to food. During this course, you’ll also learn various techniques, such as “body scan” & “noting”, which will be helpful in the mindfulness journey ahead of you.

Listen to this week’s episode to find out more about the mindfulness apps, their features and decide which one will suit your needs the most!

3) How To Hack Mindful Eating

For those who feel like actively practicing mindfulness is not their thing, there’s another way around incorporating mindful eating into your routine. And it’s all about getting to know your body and your state of mind.

With the help of Spire Health Tag, a tiny tracker, you will be able to learn everything about your daily activity and how you feel deep inside. After you clip a Spire Health Tag on your clothes, it will start tracking your workouts, HR, and breath/min.

Based on these data, Spire will provide you with insights on things like your sleep quality and stress level throughout the day. Press play and learn how you’ll be able to use these insights in becoming more mindful in your everyday life!

Subscribe To 20 Minute Fitness 

on Apple Podcast

on Android

on Breaker

by Email

on Google Podcast

on Stitcher

on Tuneln

via RSS

Full Transcript

00:00: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of ‘How Tech Can Help’ on the 20-Minute Fitness podcast. I hope you are all well and you’re truly enjoying the summer period. And if you’ve managed to fit in the holiday, then I really hope we’ve helped you achieve whatever fitness goal you set yourself leading into that holiday, and you’re feeling really body confident as you’re going about whatever it is you’re doing, whether that be an adventurous holiday or if you were just in need of a relax. If you are listening to this episode whilst on holiday, then remember, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to stick to a regimented exercise plan or a diet, for example. You’ve earned a break.

00:34: Hopefully, you’ve been following all the advice we’ve given you and you’ve incorporated lots of different techs we discussed and you’re just enjoying taking some time off. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should go overboard. There’s no need to do that. I know, often when I’m on holiday, I’ll eat for the sake of eating when I’m abroad, even if I’m not hungry. And obviously, that’s not wise. So just make sure you’re enjoying your holiday but you learn from my mistakes and to take everything in moderation. Make sure you enjoy everything, the local cuisine, but don’t go overboard.

01:05: Once again, I do hope you’re enjoying the podcast. It would mean an awful a lot to us if you could head over to whichever podcast app you listen to your podcasts on and leave us a review and rating. It really does take a matter of seconds for you, but it makes all the difference for us. Don’t forget as well, we are always keen to hear from you. We want to know whatever tech you’ve incorporated into your routine or if you have an experience with any of tech we’ve covered. Has it helped you achieve your fitness goal? We’d also be interested in hearing topic suggestions, or even if there’s an interesting founder of a tech fitness company that you think would be really interesting for us to interview, then please do get in touch.

01:40: For today’s episode, we are looking at how tech can help with mindful eating. But before we dive into the episode, a quick word of thanks to our sponsor, Shape. Shape are building a 3D body scanning scale. So with ShapeScale, you simply step on and a robotic arm will move all around your body capturing all sorts of body data. That is then synced to the Shape app, and through the app, you’ll be able to see a photo-realistic avatar of your body and you’ll also be able to see all of the different data. That’s your body fat percentage, your lean muscle mass, and your muscle girth measurements. So it really does give you a full-on and comprehensive understanding of your body progress with a visual and also the quantitative data. So you can now pre-order at shapescale.com, and I encourage you to check it out.

02:22: Before we begin, a quick reminder on what on earth mindful eating is. So if you remember from one of our very early on episodes, mindful eating has its roots in Buddhist meditation techniques. So the emphasis or focus is on maintaining a state of mindfulness where you’re wholly concentrating on being present, living in that very moment, and these techniques and being present can be applied to when you are eating. And it’s not just when you’re sitting down for a meal. It’s when you’re also having a snack. And what it helps you achieve is that you begin to eat more slowly and more deliberately. You start to become aware more of the details involved in eating. So that’s the texture and consistency of the food, the smells, the feel of the food.

03:06: It’s using all your senses so you can deeply experience the food and you don’t overthink the nutritional value of the actual food. So you’re not counting numbers here. You’re not thinking about the energy output of these foods. You’re avoiding all distractions and just focusing on being present and enjoying what it is you’ve got in front of you, identifying between real physiological hunger and emotional hunger or stress eating, or avoiding, as I said, distractions, so that when you start eating subconsciously, when you’re perhaps watching a film or something and you reach for an extra few bits of popcorn or chips, and you’re not focusing on the actual art and act of eating and what it is you are eating yourself.

03:45: So what I’ve just said sounds sort of counter-productive because, obviously, I’ve just said you don’t want to be distracted whilst eating, and yet, we’re doing an episode on how tech can help you to practice mindful eating. And a lot of blogs and experts in the subject will tell you that having screens in front of you, or reading, for example, whilst you’re actually eating, will inhibit your ability to practice mindful eating, and they are right in this instance. However, the tech we are looking at today is looking at devices and different gadgets and tech that have been designed to help you get into the correct mind-frame without overstimulating you, without distracting you too much so you can focus on being present and, as I said, using all your senses to completely explore the food you’re about to eat.

04:28: Harvard Health have reviewed a number of mindful eating studies and they’ve commented on the benefits. They cited a study out of Indiana and Duke University and it looked at 150 binge eaters and it compared a mindfulness-based therapy to a standard psycho-education treatment and also a control group. And they found that although both the active treatments produce declines in binging and depression, the mindfulness therapy groups seem to help people enjoy their food more and have less of a sense of struggle about controlling their food intake, and really building a better relationship with your food.

05:00: So, now we understand the benefits and what mindful eating is, let’s get into it. First off, as usual, we are looking at tech at the lower end of the spectrum, obviously, considering both price and fitness experience level. And today, I actually thought I’d start a little differently and start with some content that I thought could be utilized to help you learn how to eat mindfully and practice mindful behavior. As I’ve said, a lot of the tech we usually cover wouldn’t be helpful in this instance because we don’t want too many distractions, we don’t want too many screens going on that will obviously take our focus away from being present in that moment. So it’s all about really just giving you a guided lesson on how to really frame your mindset to relieve any other distraction you might have.

05:39: So I’m going to recommend a couple of podcasts which wholly focus on the area of mindfulness. And the first podcast is called the Brain over Binge podcast. So I’ve listened to Episode 42 of the Brain over Binge podcast, and this was called “The Power of Mindfulness in Binge Eating Recovery.” So in this episode, the host, Kathryn Hansen, who’s also the author of the book, “Brain over Binge,” interviews Fernanda and they discuss how she used mindfulness to put a stop to her binge eating and how this allowed her really to take more control of her eating and how she became more present and just really became one with that moment when she was eating and understood what it was that she needed to do in order to build this better relationship with food.

06:20: Now, throughout the episode, she talks about how she struggled to stick to any consistent food plan and food actually controlled her life, and it took time to learn these techniques and to be able to eat mindfully. And she had to test lots of different variations to find out what worked for her. So this is not a quick fix. Practicing mindful eating will not happen to you overnight. You won’t be able to change your routine and see food in a different light overnight. It’s something you need to pay attention to and keep working on your ability to really explore the food in more depth.

06:48: But in the interview, both the host and Fernanda discuss how mindfulness really helped to practice her meditation, and that dismissed the craving feeling she often had. So she was able to distinguish between physiological hunger and emotional hunger, which we mentioned earlier. So the Brain over Binge podcast is one resource I definitely encourage you to check out, and you should just scroll through and see which episode sounds interesting and useful for you. The second podcast I want to suggest is the Technology for Mindfulness podcast, and this covers a range of topics centered around how mindfulness can help you. For example, preventing you from spending too much time on your phone and social media.

07:22: There are also interviews in there with a lot of different leaders in the mindfulness space, such as we have Rohan Gunatillake, who is the founder of the app Buddhify, which we’ll discuss shortly, as well. So I encourage you to check out this podcast and do the same, really, find which episodes would work for you and which you think would really just help you understand the world of mindfulness as well, because it’s very new to a lot of people, including myself, so it’s very interesting finding out more about this space, and just interesting as well to see what new tech comes out as it is a new and growing space. It’s massively growing, and as I said, it’s exciting to see the new innovations that are gonna be coming out in the next few years.

07:56: And the final tech in the form of content that I want to suggest is, considering the audiobook or obviously if you prefer the hard copy of a book called “Just Eat It: How Intuitive Eating Can Help You Get Your Shit Together Around Food,” and that’s by Laura Thomas. And throughout the book, basically, Laura aims to help practitioners of mindful or intuitive eating tune in to hunger and fullness cues and recognize which really is physiological hunger or emotional hunger. She tries to do this without talking about any extreme diets or any diet at all really. And the whole purpose of the audiobook is to help you build a more trusting relationship with food.

08:34: So those are my content tech recommendations out of the way. Next up, I have a few apps to discuss with you. And first up, we have Smiling Mind. So Smiling Mind is a mindfulness app that is used by over 3 million people, and it’s got a whole host of different programs, a massive database that their programs are designed to help you deal with pressure and stress and all the challenges of whatsoever obviously in your life is causing you that stress, whether that be work, or being on your phone too much, or lots of traveling if you have to travel for work, for example, and so on, if you’re new to parenting, or whatever it may be.

09:07: There are programs for all ages. There’s, as I said, the workplace, classroom. But the one we’re obviously interested in is the mindful eating program. So let’s dive in deeper into that program. So you’ll first start off by, like most apps, making a profile, and you’ll be asked questions so that Smiling Mind can recommend you which programs it thinks would suit you, based on your experience level with regards to mindfulness, your age, and also why you’re looking to use Smiling Mind and what you’re interested in. Again, you could then select the recommended programs or you could choose to browse all of them and choose the program which most suits what you’re looking for.

09:42: So whilst checking out the database, I recommend, if you’re interested in mindful eating, opting for the program called Find 10 Minutes For Your Mind. So that’s the actual title of the whole program or section of the database. And then within that, there is a session on mindful eating. Before you begin the program, it recommends that you have a piece of fruit or chocolate for the session. So make sure you have that with you before beginning this. And before you begin, you’ll be asked how you feel at that given moment before starting. Because after they run through the program, they like to then ask you those questions again, three short questions. You can select the answer with a slidey bar and, hopefully, you’ll be feeling more relaxed, more content and happier after going through the guided session.

10:22: So the guided session is run by a very soothing voice. I’ve actually been through the whole session myself, and very relaxing indeed. You’ll be asked to close your eyes, start focusing on your breathing, concentrate on all the movements involved in the breathing, such as the intake and out-take of breath. The instructor will then try and get you to focus on different aspects. So you’ll be asked to focus on perhaps your hands resting in your lap, for example, and just really hone in on that and what that feeling is like. And then you’ll be told, though, throughout this, “Keep your mind off the fruit and chocolate.”

10:52: And that’s obviously the difficulty, is trying to make you be present on one thing, so you’re not being distracted by your mind wandering off and thinking about that food, and that’s obviously the boredom hunger speaking, or the emotional hunger speaking. You’ll then be asked to explore the food in detail as you’ve never done before. Honestly, I’d never even fathomed thinking about food in this much detail. And the goal is really to get you to appreciate it in its raw form. So they explore all different senses. Smiling Mind will teach you to build a new relationship with food, obviously, with you just appreciating it for what it is and all the different senses involved that can get involved with the food as well.

11:26: And there are plenty of other programs for you to explore. Within the dashboard, you can also see how many minutes you’ve meditated for, along with the number of sessions you’ve done and the day’s streaks, so how many days in a row you’ve managed to find time to do a session, and obviously, this will help you just stay accountable because you can try and keep your streak going for as long as possible. And then, obviously, as time goes by, it should become a habit. And then this mindful eating and way of understanding and appreciating food should be really incorporated into the way you live your life, to be honest. So you should never really need to go on a diet again and you should just approach the way you eat with a mindful approach.

12:00: Next up, and you’ll have heard me speak about this app before. It’s Headspace, it’s colossal in the mindfulness space. It’s got over 500,000 reviews and an average rating of 4.9 stars, so you know it is the real deal. I won’t delve too much, obviously, into the range of features Headspace has, as we’ve already covered it before, but I wanted to specifically highlight their mindful eating program. So it’s similar to Smiling Mind. The goal is to encourage a more holistic understanding and point of view when it comes to the how and why of eating, and that obviously helps us understand better which foods nourish us and keep us healthy.

12:35: So again, you’ll be encouraged to engage all your different senses, smell, taste, touch, everything, and you’ll be asked to avoid distractions in the form of watching TV, and it’s all about eating slowly, being present, smelling the different aromas, feeling the texture of the food. It’s understanding food should not be a punishment or a reward. It’s helping us think about our relationship with food differently, plain and simple. So the Headspace Mindful Eating course is 30 days long and it helps you understand why we eat the way we do and what is driving our different choices and our thoughts.

13:07: So Headspace will help you practice techniques like the body scan, and that’s all about helping you reconnect your mind and body, as often your mind’s wandering, it’s in one place, whilst your body is doing something completely different, potentially, or eating something subconsciously, and you’re not really being present. So it helps you reconnect your mind and body. And you’ll also practice different techniques like noting. So this is keeping track of your distraction, what it is that’s making you lose concentration and lose your sense of presence. And then, obviously, trying to get yourself back to the object of focus, which in this instance, is your food.

13:39: So it’s really sort of gently making a connection that if your mind has wandered off, you started thinking about something else, so then you know how to bring yourself back. It’s helping you accept you’ve wandered off-target, but then how you then get back on target if that makes sense. And these sessions usually last around 10 minutes and they’ll guide you through the session. Focusing on your breathing first, and then obviously incorporating these techniques of noting and the body scan until they are habitual and you understand how to do them on your own accord and you can bring it into your own lifestyle, to be honest.

14:07: So next up in the apps, we have Buddhify. I told you I’ve mentioned it earlier on, and if you wanted to listen to the interview with the founder, then that is Episode 33 of the Technology for Mindfulness podcast. So Buddhify is a paid app, but don’t worry, it’s under $10, and it provides meditations based on different categories such as going to sleep, or dealing with stress, traveling, and eating, of course. And the meditations are designed to seamlessly fit into your busy schedule, so you could do them whenever, at any stage of the day, you just try and fit them in.

14:38: There are sessions for all experience levels ranging from three to 40 minutes, and there’s a range of different teachers, obviously, of all different voices, so you can find the right voice for you that helps you really hone your skills of being mindful. Buddhify has been recognized by countless publications such as TechCrunch, Business Insider, and there are countless people that have said that the device helped them ease their stress and anxiety. So check out these three apps, see which one works best for you. Let us know which one you’ve settled with and let us know if you’ve started incorporating their practices of mindful eating into your own routines, to be honest. It would be really interesting to know if anyone’s actually started incorporating it.

15:17: We’re now going to look at the mid-end of the spectrum. And what I would say is, before we move up into this category, is that it seems the lower end of the market, where we’re looking at apps and podcasts and obviously things at a lower price point that potentially anyone could utilize, this is a thriving market with a number of different options on the market and some stand-outs, some amazing reviews. However, as we move up in price point and potentially more features, it seems that the reliability of the technology that’s on the market for mindfulness products decreases and the reviews get worse.

15:49 S1: So there was a wearable device called the ZENTA, which never ended up shipping. It was on Indiegogo and it reached its full backing but never ended up shipping and went straight to their gadget graveyard. There was Cadence which hasn’t really received great reviews, nor to be honest, has the WellBe bracelet which offered heart rate monitoring biofeedback. And again, this was meant to help you be more mindful and relax better. So it seems that it’s not a very mature market in this more expensive section on the market yet, where the price point increases and more features are introduced.

16:17: However, in our earlier episode where we talk about How Tech Can Help Introduce You to Mindfulness, we bring in some gadgets that have had some good reviews throughout the different stages of the low-end to high-end that we usually cover in 20-Minute Fitness. So if you want to explore more about this, then definitely check out that episode. Obviously, the technology that we talk about in that episode is more about just practicing mindful behavior in general, and not specifically catering for mindful eating. However, what I would say is that if you do check out some of the other techs that we mentioned in the How Tech Can Help Introduce You to Mindfulness, then things like the Muse Headband that we talk about in that episode, the techniques will be similar.

16:53: It’s all about being present in general. So not necessarily focusing on food but being present at that moment, focusing on your breathing and not getting distracted. So you could apply what you learn to mindful eating if that makes sense. Throughout this stage, the best-reviewed gadget that I could find in this price point is the Spire Health Tag, and we previously discussed the Spire mindfulness and activity tracker. But the health tags are different. So the health tags simply make your clothing smart. It’s a very, very small tag that can be tagged or stuck, whatever you want to call it, into your clothes and this should be the clothes that you wear most often. And because they need skin contact in order for the senses to work, they should be your undergarments as well.

17:29: So that’s your gym shorts, T-shirts, your bras and underwear, and things like that. Don’t worry about having to take them out for the washing because they are wash and tumble dryer proof as well. And the battery also lasts 1.5 years. There’s some great battery life on them. You can purchase a pack of eight for $399. Obviously, one of the issues is that if you want 24/7 tracking, then most people have more than eight different items of clothing that they wear, so you’ll either have to be really good at recycling your clothes on time so the clothing you wear is always tagged, or you have to buy enough tags to fit your wardrobe, which is obviously very expensive.

18:02: So the tags measure your activity, your heart rate, your sleep and your breaths per minute. They’ll give you data on how long you’re awake for during the time when you should be asleep, how much deep sleep you got, and how much light sleep you got. So at this stage, it doesn’t really seem applicable to the topic of mindful eating. However, the reason I’ve included it is because it’s indirectly going to help you practice mindful eating because the number of different aspects it can track to help you build a rounded picture of whether you’re stressed or not. So via the app that comes with the Spire Health Tag, you’ll actually be sent notifications to say, potentially, you are at your most stressed day or you didn’t sleep well and it might be a good idea to try breathing exercise, and this will obviously give you what you need to recognize when you… And how you should combat stress.

18:48: And why it’s important to consider it for mindful eating is that, obviously, we mentioned earlier, we’re trying to distinguish between physiological hunger and emotional hunger, and when you’re tired and stressed and you’re overworked, then that’s when the emotional hunger and the cravings and the stress eating and the hunger pangs are gonna set in. So if we have a device which tells us when we are actually potentially feeling more stressed or breathing heavier, and then we should just take a moment out of our day to sit, do a breathing exercise, focus on all the movements involved in the breathing, the out-breath, the in-breath, and just be ever-present for even five minutes to calm ourselves down and use that noting technique. We forget about all the different distractions of food and those emotional hunger cries. Then this will help us practice the art of mindfulness, which we can then apply to start doing mindful eating.

19:33: But obviously, the Spire Health Tag is not without its pitfalls and complexities. Accuracy is also always questionable with these devices, but getting these reminders when to just stop, breathe, and be present may be all you need to have that domino effect in your life that sees you changing the way you approach food, changing the way you approach your health in general, and consider it an all holistic manner where you actually consider your sleep, and how that affects your body’s health throughout the day. How does that make you feel throughout the day? If you don’t get enough deep sleep, then you’re going to feel tired. When you’re at work, that can put extra stress on you. So having something to notify you of the different aspects of your day and then tell you to sit that moment out, might help you think about and avoid overeating to try and compensate if you’re having a bad day, for example.

20:16: So that is all we have time for this week. Nothing really in the high end of the spectrum, as I mentioned earlier. If you did want to listen to the How Tech Can Help Introduce You to Mindfulness episode, we talk about the Somadome in that, which is definitely in the high end of the spectrum, we have limited locations around the US. So that might be worth checking out if you’re interested in finding out what else you could do. But I strongly encourage you to check out some of the resources I mentioned here to help you understand mindful eating a bit better, the art of mindfulness in general, and see whether this could be the solution that really helps you make a change in your life rather than unsuccessfully following a diet, if that’s something you’ve always struggled with. Perhaps it’s just learning more about your relationship with food that will matter. So I hope you enjoyed and we’ll catch you soon.

Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
Use our free guide to design your very own personalized nutrition plan.
Download e-Book
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
... start working on your unique diet plan.
Download E-Book

Lilla Laczo

Lilla is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
Be notified with our latest podcast episode & blog articles every week!
Subscribe Now ⚡️
Be notified for the latest podcast episode!
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
Use our free guide to design your very own personalized nutrition plan.
Download e-Book
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
... start working on your unique diet plan.
Download E-Book