Mindful Eating Reduces Stress and Boosts Performance

Immersing yourself in every step of the fueling process, from cooking to cleanup, is worth the extra effort, even for time-crunched runners balancing miles and life. Mindful eating reduces stress and makes dining more satisfying, says Sally Powis-Campbell, a runner and psychologist. This practice can translate to better performances. “Once you see the benefits on the plate, mindfulness spills over into other aspects of life,” she says. Here’s how to practice it in yours.

Sweet! Study participants who ate chocolate once or twice a week scored higher on tests of learning and memory than those who didn’t, according to research. Photography by Matt Rainey.


Schedule diligently. Block time to shop for and prepare your meals just as you would plan your training. Double your recipes and store leftovers, or dedicate a few hours on Sunday to prep ingredients for the week. “These time-savers make cooking more conducive within an intense running schedule,” says Meredith Klein, a private chef and mindful-cooking teacher.

Gear up. Keep your kitchen clutter-free and stocked with tools to make cooking easy and comfortable. “Runners will tell you it’s not about having the most expensive shoes, but those that work for you,” Klein says. “You don’t need the priciest knife, just one that really feels good in your hands.”

Be nonjudgmental. Acceptance and tolerance are key components of mindfulness. Jessyca Arthur-Cameselle, Ed.D., a sports psychology professor who studies mindful eating, advises against labeling foods “good” or “bad.” Too many carrots can make you sick, while a few bites of dark chocolate can help your heart (and mood!).

RELATED: Study reveals why Dark Chocolate is Good for You 

Photography by Mitch Mandel


Unplug. Ditch electronics or leave them in airplane mode to remove distractions. “Use cooking—like running—as a time to press pause on your anxieties and plans,” Klein says.

Check in physically. As you peel, grate, and chop, be aware of your body in space, Klein says. Feel your feet pressing into the tile floor, your grip on the knife, the slipperiness of the lettuce. Bring your mind back to these concrete sensations if you start drifting.

Clean promptly. Sure, it’s tempting to check social media while the fish grills or the mousse mixes, but use this time to clean up. “You’ll enjoy the food more knowing you don’t have to wash pots and pans afterward,” Klein says.

Be social. “Getting your partner or family into the kitchen with you is a great way to spend time together, especially during a busy training cycle,” Klein says. Bonus: According to research, adults who cook and eat together regularly have lower odds of obesity.

Eating fresh fish—a great source of omega-3s—may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent JAMA study. Photography by Mitch Mandel.


Breathe. A few full breaths switch your nervous system from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest mode, meaning you’ll absorb more nutrients, Powis-Campbell says. Wrap your hands around the back of your chair and take deep breaths that move your stomach in and out, says Katie Jeffrey, M.S., R.D., coauthor of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Athletes: A Mindful Eating Program for Sports and Life.

Chew—a lot. With every bite, your mouth sends signals to your brain to quiet cravings. Start with 10 chews for each mouthful and work your way up to between 30 and 40. This also helps you focus on the texture and taste of your food.

Slow down. “There’s no medal for those who finish first,” Powis-Campbell says. Eating at a slow jog instead of a full sprint gives your gut and brain time to register feelings of fullness. Slow down by using your nondominant hand, using smaller utensils, or putting them down between each bite.

Recite a mantra. “Don’t give up” powers you through a tough run. Use the same strategy to maintain focus during a meal, says Powis-Campbell. Say (or think) phrases like “I am nourished” every few bites to calm yourself and return to the purpose of the meal.

Below, you’ll find three delicious recipes that can be used to test out your new mindful eating approach.


Photography by Mitch Mandel.



1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
4 fresh head-on trout, cleaned (8 to 12 ounces each)
kosher salt and ground black pepper
8 to 12 thin slices lemon
12 to 16 sprigs whole herbs (dill, thyme, oregano, chives, tarragon, basil)


Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for medium-high heat. Brush and oil grates. With a knife, make several small slashes on both sides of the fish, breaking the skin. Rub skin with olive oil and sprinkle skin and insides with salt and pepper. Place lemon slices and herbs inside. Set fish on grill and close lid. Grill until fish turns opaque and flaky, turning once, about 10 minutes.

To serve, discard herbs and lemon, and peel back skin. With a fork, gently remove fish, sliding down the bones from the backbone and toward you. Some bones may remain in the flesh. Makes 4 servings.

Photography by Mitch Mandel.



1 tablespoon golden flaxseeds
½ cup blueberries
½ cup chopped mango
½ cup cherries, pitted and halved
½ cup chopped white onion
½ jalapeno, sliced, seeds removed for less heat
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste
4 cups mixed lettuces (Bibb, red leaf, frisee)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


Using a mortar and pestle, grind flaxseeds to a coarse meal. (Or put flaxseeds in a zip-top bag and crush with rolling pin.) Set aside. In a medium bowl, gently stir together blueberries, mango, cherries, onion, jalapeno, ¼ cup lime juice, cilantro, mint, salt, and pepper.

To serve, tear lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces, place in a large serving bowl, and toss with olive oil and remaining tablespoon lime juice. Top with fruit salsa and sprinkle with crushed flaxseeds. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.


Photography by Matt Rainey.



1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into ½″ cubes
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur (optional)
3 large egg whites
⅓ cup sugar


Line an 8″ x 8″ cake pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2″ overhang, and place in freezer. In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, whisk 1 cup cream to stiff peaks, about 3 minutes, and refrigerate until needed. Set a metal bowl over a pot with 1″ simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add chocolate and melt, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and stir in butter and coffee liqueur, if using. Set aside.

In a large metal bowl, combine egg whites and sugar and set over pot of simmering water. Whisk gently, by hand, until sugar completely dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and beat with electric mixer until completely cooled, white and opaque, and has tripled in volume, about 7 minutes. With a large silicone spatula, fold chocolate into egg whites until completely combined. Make sure mixture is room temperature or cooler before proceeding. Fold reserved whipped cream into chocolate mixture until there are no streaks. Scrape into prepared cake pan, tapping on counter gently to even out, and smoothing the top. Freeze at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Freeze 8 dessert plates.

In a medium bowl, whisk remaining cup heavy cream to medium peaks, about 2 minutes. Remove frozen mousse from freezer. Using plastic overhang, lift mousse onto cutting board. Using a thin knife dipped in hot water, cut mousse into 8 bars. Transfer bars to plates, top with whipped cream, and using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate over top. If not eating immediately, wrap each bar in plastic wrap and freeze in zip-top bag for up to 2 weeks. Makes 8 servings.


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