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Mindful Eating in The Time of COVID-19

Updated: Mar 9

This article was written by Nutritional Coach and Nutrition Specialist Candidate Kelly Williams, MS.  The following information is not intended to substitute medical advice.

In times of great stress, some of us may find ourselves gravitating towards ‘comfort foods’ while others of us may not even have access to so-called ‘healthy’ options. Stress can disconnect us from awareness of our body’s signals. We may find ourselves eating more or less frequently simply because we are not as in tune with what our body needs, or we may be trying to fulfill an emotional need with our eating.

In these moments, one of the best things we can do is begin by cultivating intention around food. No matter WHAT we eat, we can control HOW we eat it. Intention affects outcome. A mindful eating practice is process-oriented, meaning that there is no number on a scale or box to check for completion. The process is as unique as the individual because each person has their own history and experiences to bring to the table. This practice can begin very simply at home by thinking about or journaling on these three points at meals or snacks:

  1. Intention – the act of doing something ‘on purpose’. This is about making a conscious choice to eat something instead of just eating whatever items or portions are available.

  2. Attention – giving something your focus, being ‘in the present moment’. Eliminate distractions such as television or devices that may prevent you from fully experiencing your meal or snack.

  3. Attitude – approaching ‘non-judgmentally’. Just as foods are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, neither are you ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for eating those foods. Begin by simply noticing your feelings in a neutral way without judging them.

There are innumerable benefits to begin engaging in any type of mindfulness practice. The relationship between our brain-gut-microbiome is bi-directional, meaning that we can support our brain’s stress response, emotional regulation, and overall mental health through nourishing foods; we can likewise support our digestion, absorption and inflammatory processes through mindfulness practices. The body’s ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter, serotonin, is 90% produced in the gut. We have all heard the old saying “you are what you eat”, but perhaps it is really that “you FEEL how you eat”! A combination of nourishing foods and a mindful eating practice will fuel your body and brain for optimal health.

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