Mindful eating: 6 tips to reduce stress around meal times

Reducing stress around meal times

Co-written by Serena Hodge 

What is Mindful Eating?

The practise of mindful eating is about being fully present and bringing your attention to your environment, thoughts and feelings when you sit down to eat a meal. In doing this you can remove the anxiety, guilt and distractions surrounding meal times. This allows you to fully enjoy and appreciate every bite of the food on your plate without fear or judgment of yourself.

Below I will share with you 6 ways you can begin to practise eating mindfully based on guidelines set by Eating Disorders Victoria (2016) as well as my own personal experience.

1. Give yourself permission to enjoy food without guilt. This is one of the most important first steps when learning how to eat mindfully. This is about removing restrictions and giving yourself permission to appreciate the pleasurable experience that food can bring. In doing this, you can shift your focus to eating foods that make you feel good. Remember that this can include eating your favourite foods. So next time you go to snack on your favourite chocolate bar or a dessert, start by telling yourself that it is okay to enjoy the experience.

2. Consider how you are feeling. Before you sit down to eat your meal, think about how you are feeling in the moment. Are you feeling stressed, or calm and relaxed? Does your body feel tense and uneasy? This is important as your thoughts and the way your body feels can increase your self-awareness and give you a good indication of your attitude towards eating.

3. Deep breathing. As you sit down in front of your meal, take a moment to take a few slow, deep breaths. You can do this by closing your eyes, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. This is a good way to help you relax and bring you into the present moment.

4. Chew slowly. As you begin to eat your meal, encourage yourself to eat slowly. This can help you slow down and relax while allowing you to savour and appreciate the flavours of the food.

5. Remove distractions. Many of us are surrounded with a number of distractions during meal times. This can include things such as watching T.V., scrolling through social media, talking on the phone or being on the move and not taking the time to sit down. Next time you are about to eat your meal, take a moment to switch off and focus on the task of eating. Notice if this makes you feel more present and aware of the food you are eating.

6. Eat with company. Surrounding yourself with the company of your family and friends when you eat can be a great way to shift your focus away from feelings of fear and anxiety when eating meals. When we realise that food and meal times are a time that can be celebrated and enjoyed, we can recognise that we have begun to take the first steps towards creating a positive relationship with food, free of fear and judgement.

Remember that this is a guide to support you on your journey to becoming a mindful eater. This is not an absolute must to follow at every meal or snack time as lets be real, life doesn’t always allow for that. But the more we can move towards a more mindful direction and create more presence around our meal occasion, the more positive it will be for our physical and mental health.

Please note, that mindful eating and intuitive eating may not be appropriate for someone living with an active eating disorder. Please reach out to an Accredited Practising Dietitian to understand if this approach to eating is right for you.

Reconnecting with Food and Friends this October Long Weekend

Sharing a platter with friends

Eating socially and with spontaniety is such an an important part of the intuitive eating process. So we thought we would create the ultimate list of activities for you this October Long Weekend.

Not all are food related…. But the point is to encourage new places and new experiences. We hope you find something you enjoy!












What is weight stigma – and why should we be worried about it?

Weight stigma

Have you ever taken a moment to question your personal beliefs around weight and body size?

How do these thoughts make you feel about yourself?

How do they make you think about other people?

September 23rd-27th marks the first Weight Stigma Awareness week where the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) are starting the conversation about weight stigma and the impact it can have on our health.

Weight stigma is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s weight. The effects of weight stigma have been published in the literature for a long time. However, this research is typically overlooked due to the powerful influence diet culture has over us. For those unfamiliar with the term diet culture, it represents a society that places value on being a certain size, weight, and shape over actual health, and promotes the false notion that health always equals thinness. We have been raised to believe that ”thin=good” and “fat=bad” and that the size of our body determines our self-worth. (If you are curious about your own weight bias you can take the Harvard Implicit Associations Test https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html)

Diet culture has taught us that being in a larger body is the fault of the individual. That weight gain is shameful and is the result of being “lazy”, “unmotivated” and “lack willpower”. While weight loss is applauded and encouraged even when resembling eating disorder behaviours such as restriction or excessive exercise. This culture has made us believe that by shaming someone for being in a larger body it will motivate them to lose weight and be “healthy”. However, when we look into the research properly, it does anything but….

Such stigma poses numerous consequences on our psychological, social and physical health. Weight stigma can:

  • increase body dissatisfaction which is a leading risk factor in the development of eating disorders.
  • increase the risk for
    • depression,
    • low self-esteem,
    • poor body image
    • and binge eating.

Alarmingly, research has also shown an association between internalised weight stigma and increased biochemical stress in an individual, which has been correlated with

  • increased cortisol levels
  • inflammation
  • unhealthy blood pressure
  • poor blood glucose control
  • increased cholesterol levels

Through the fear of weight gain and idealisation of thinness, we have all been a victim of weight stigma. However for the most part, it is those people living in larger bodies that wear the brunt of it. When you look around hard enough you can see how this happens almost anywhere- at home, in schools, the work place, media, social media and even in medical appointments.

For this reason the conversation needs to change and needs to be made a priority. Not only for social justice and anti-discrimination, but for public health.

How can you make a difference to this conversation and help put a stop to weight stigma?


NEDA (2018), ‘Weight Stigma’ https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/weight-stigma

Tomiyama, A.J et al. (2018), ‘How and why weight stigma drives the obesity ‘epidemic’ and harms health’, BMC Medicine, https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-018-1116-5

Puhl, R.M and Heuer, C.A. (2010), ‘Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health’, American Journal of Public Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866597/

Tomiyama, A.J et al. (2014), ‘Associations of Weight Stigma With Cortisol and Oxidative Stress Independent of Adiposity’, American Psychological Association, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25068456

5 Steps to Joyful Movement

Joyful movement

A guest piece by Olivia Macdonald. Personal Trainer and Nutritionist.

Before you read any further, let me ask you this; What is your motivation to exercise?

Is it…

To improve your fitness?


Manage your stress levels?

Or is it…

To lose weight?


Earn your dessert tonight?

For many, uncoupling exercise from weight loss or calorie burning can serve as a challenge, particularly if you have had a rocky relationship with food or body image in the past.

This post provides 5 steps to help you shift your focus away from the scales and bring more joy to exercise in your everyday life!

Step 1 – Focus on How it Feels

Keep track of how exercise makes you feel, both during and afterwards. Take mental notes or even jot them down on a piece of paper. Think about your stress and energy levels, are you able to handle stressful situations better? Can you concentrate for longer at work after exercise? Reflect on your general mood throughout the day and the quality of your sleep, do you possess a more positive outlook after bouts of exercise? Do you fall asleep quicker and wake up feeling re-energized?

Step 2 – Aim for Health Outcomes Outside of Weight. 


Remove the idea that weight loss is the only outcome of exercise, and try to celebrate the numerous health benefits that being active has to offer. Everyone can reap the benefits of exercise, including;

  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved sleep and ability to relax
  • Improved satiety cues and appetite regulation
  • & if we’re honest, it can be really really fun.

Step 3 – Removing the ‘All or Nothing’ Mindset


I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t have to be profusely sweating to reap the many benefits of exercise. In fact, a study conducted in 2011 reported that short bursts of moderate intensity activity were significantly associated with improved cardiorespiratory fitness (McGuire et al. 2011).

So next time you’re thinking “I only have 20 minutes, there’s no point!”, think again – it all adds up!

Step 4 – Exercise with Others


Consider making exercise a part of your social life, instead of your weekly ‘coffee date’ with a friend why not grab a coffee and head off on a walk? Or, rope your girlfriends in on your Saturday morning yoga class and then grab some breaky after – it’s a win-win!

Equally, turn your kid’s weekend activities into fun family outings. Rock-climbing, swimming or trampolining – why should kids have all the fun?

Step 5 – Choose Activities you Enjoy


As the title of this post suggests, joyful movement is only going to be joyful if you’re actually doing things you enjoy! Don’t set a goal of running 5x per week if you absolutely detest running, chances are you won’t stick to it and you’ll be left feeling disheartened and disappointed.

Set some time aside to really think about things you enjoy doing; walking, cycling, playing tennis, yoga, palates – you name it.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try something new! Always wanted to play badminton? Join a local club, a great way of meeting like-minded people and adding variety to your routine.

“Exercise should be a celebration of what the body can do, rather than punishment for what you ate”.

Ross, R., and McGuire, A. (2011). Incidental Physical Activity Is Positively Associated with Cardiorespiratory Fitness. School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, CANADA.



A student dietitian’s musings on weight and health

Thoughts in diary

How do you measure your own health? Do you take into account your friends and family supporting you, being confident in your own skin, drinking enough water every day, moving your body in ways that you enjoy, knowing what to do when times get stressful, or nourishing your body with food it deserves? Or do you just look at that number on the scales?

I grew up in an environment where people around me were always worried about what they ate, mainly based on the assumption that certain foods will make you gain weight and having extra ‘fat’ on you was unhealthy.

I grew up in a time where fad diets reigned – whether it was keto, paleo, low carb, juice cleanses, detox teas (you get the idea) – and what did all of these have in common? Weight loss. I was conditioned into thinking that weight was the be all and end all of health.

These assumptions were contradicted during the first semester of my dietetic studies. To say I was apprehensive would have been an understatement. I literally thought this way of looking at weight and health was one of those ‘holistic’ and alternative methods.

Fast track 2 years, and I am still on a learning curve, but I have come leaps and bounds in my understanding and accepting of weight not being the most important indicator of health. This, for some people, can be a hard pill to swallow.

In saying this, there are still so many questions that I don’t have the answer too when it comes to weight, BMI and their relationship to health. But at this point in time, my answer would be to take all the energy you are placing on yourself, your weight and your body and to put this into other aspects of health, like running a bubble bath to de-stress, making an effort to reach out to someone for chat if you’re feeling lonely, eating foods because you enjoy them, and waking up every day with a purpose.

Health is a complex multifactorial concept that is influenced by an unbelievably huge amount of areas in life – some areas we might not even be aware of.

So as I take this time to reflect on what health means to me, I would invite you to do the same.

And as I move through this journey, I look forward to sharing how my thoughts and perceptions change (or perhaps don’t change).

What is health really?

Health at Every Size – The Basics

What is health at every size

The Health At Every Size®, or HAES approach is a topic that I’m particularly passionate about. When I first came across the concept while at uni, I had one of those lightbulb moments of “yep, this is what I want to do”, and it completely changed my life. It revolutionised the way that I think of health, and made me much more driven to not only look after my own health more effectively, but to be a better health practitioner.

Like any good scientist, I thought that before I start talking about it more, I should get my definitions straight. So today, we’re talking all things HAES.

Continue reading