Mindful eating could change your food habits and overall life. Here's how to start

Enjoying a meal without distractions is a crucial part of mindful eating.

(CNN)You gobbled down your lunch while scrolling through your social media or watching your favorite show, and now you feel bloated and unsure of what your food even tasted like. Or maybe you feel guilty for eating leftover chocolate cake straight out of the fridge.

These behaviors and mindsets contrast with mindful eating, which means using all your physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices you make without judgment, said Lilian Cheung, a lecturer and director of health promotion and communication in the nutrition department at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, via email.
It "stems from the broader philosophy of mindfulness, a widespread, centuries-old practice used in many religions," Cheung said. "Mindfulness is an intentional focus on one's thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment."
    Mindful eating and intuitive eating philosophies overlap, but they differ in some key ways. While mindful eating is about being present to experience your food as you eat it, intuitive eating focuses more on improving one's relationship with food and body image by rejecting external rigid diet messaging.
      Whether one method is better than the other depends on individuals' needs, said Lisa Young, an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University, nutritionist in private practice and author of "Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time."
      Mindful eating fits with all types of counseling and strategies for eating, weight and health. "It's more user-friendly for a larger audience because it's a tool that can be incorporated into a lot of different methods," Young said.
      These experts cautioned that mindful eating isn't a panacea for food- or health-related issues, but small studies have suggested some benefits of the practice, largely based on its meditative aspects and abilities to help people distinguish physical hunger cues from emotional hunger. Some people have experienced weight loss or stability, anxiety and stress reduction, normalized eating habits, and relief from irritable bowel syndrome and gastrointestinal symptoms, Young said.
        If you want to try mindful eating, here's what else you should know about getting started and potential hurdles.

        Practicing mindful eating

        The goal of mindful eating is to become more in tune with all your senses -- sight, smell, hearing, taste and feeling -- and thoughts during your eating experiences without distraction, said Teresa T. Fung, a professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Simmons University in Boston, and adjunct professor of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
        "When I'm going to eat breakfast, I'm not going to be holding my iPad and reading today's news. I'm not checking my email on that. I'll just sit in a quiet place -- it could be a couch. I don't have to sit at the dining room table," Fung explained.
        She learned to love eating -- and herself -- despite a lifetime of fat shaming