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5 Mindful Eating Steps for Hedonic Eaters

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Hedonic Eaters

Could your obesity be in part due to a greater physiologic drive towards hedonic eating than that possessed by your peers? Here’s what one study suggests about hedonic eating and how that using the following 5 mindful eating steps could help you fight your natural urge to overeat.


According to a recent report by News.Com in Australia, food psychologist Brian Wansink says that we make over 200 different food decisions every day - Should you choose to eat dessert? Or have a snack before dinner? Or finish off the bottle of wine? An unfortunate fact about those choices is that they often lead up to about 80 per cent of the eating we do as being “non-hungry” eating. In other words, what diet experts refer to as “mindless or hedonic” eating where consciously or not our brain is seeking immediate pleasure from food.

As it turns out, researchers are looking into the causes of hedonic eating and posit that some individuals are more prone to this type of mindless eating than others due to differences in genetics and physiology linked to the pleasure receptors in our brains. However, there is no direct test that can positively predict whether someone is more prone to hedonic eating.

To compensate for this lack of a test, individuals could potentially be identified indirectly by treating them with naltrexone and measuring their cortisol levels and self-reports of nausea. Naltrexone is a medication that blocks the opioid receptors in the brain and is normally used to treat drug and alcohol dependence. Approximately 10% of users of naltrexone experience nausea.

Since food also elicits pleasure responses in the brain through opioid receptors, the hypothesis is that comparing responses between test subjects treated with naltrexone or a placebo could reveal obese individuals with a greater opioid-mediated hedonic eating drive. The end goal is that specific weight loss interventions could be developed to target hedonic eating.

In fact, what researchers have found is that naltrexone-induced cortisol increases were associated with greater hedonic eating (greater food addiction). And furthermore, that when weight loss interventions like mindful eating was introduced to the test subjects, those identified as having a greater opioid-mediated hedonic eating drive benefited more from the weight loss intervention than did the controls.

But whether or not you are predisposed to hedonic eating because of your genetics, health experts tell us that everyone could benefit by becoming more mindful of what they eat, how much they eat, and when they eat. As such, here are 5 mindful eating steps offered by News.Com.Au writer Kathleen Alleaume on how to learn to eat mindfully:

How to Eat Mindfully

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Mindful Eating Step #1: Snack with purpose
―It may sound obvious, but eating out of a bag or box is a mindless practice. Get in the habit of placing even small snacks on a plate before you eat them. This will force you to acknowledge exactly what and how much you will be eating.

Mindful Eating Step #2: Drop distractions―Sometimes eating can feel like another item on the to-do list. If you’re one of those people who find it hard to eat lunch away from your desk or dinner not in front of the TV, challenge yourself to eat without multi-tasking. Research shows that eating while distracted makes it harder to recall the amount of food consumed, prompting you to eat more. Set aside time for eating without other entertainment.

Mindful Eating Step #3: Focus on each mouthful
―Slow down, chew thoroughly and taste the food without eating on automatic pilot. Think about the flavor, texture and even notice the sounds your food makes while you’re eating it. Not only will you enjoy the food more, but savoring every bite allows the brain ample time to send fullness signals.

Mindful Eating Step #4: Honor your food―Adopt an attitude of gratitude and acknowledge the time and effort you put into creating your meal. Take a moment to appreciate where the ingredients come from, and the preparation and intention involved in getting the food onto your plate.

Mindful Eating Step #5: Rate Your Hunger―‘Real’ hunger is very different from perceived hunger which is often an indication of boredom or a symptom of procrastination. If you’ve just eaten within the last two hours, chances are you are not physically hungry. Then think about how hungry you are on a scale of 1-10. One represents ravenous, five is comfortable, and ten is full to the point you’re totally stuffed! You never want to reach either end of the scale. The trick is eating somewhere in the middle, so as to avoid overeating or eating out of control.

For more about mindful eating, here is what Dr. Oz had to say about the power of the mind when he tested a diet pill against a placebo.


Acute responses to opioidergic blockade as a biomarker of hedonic eating among obese women enrolled in a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention trial” Appetite 2015 Aug 1; 91:311-20; Mason, A.E. et al.

News.com.au “The trick to shedding stubborn weight may be all in your head” by Kathleen Alleaume