On average you spend two-and-a-half hours a day eating. More than half the time, you’re doing something else, too. You may be working, driving, reading, watching television, or fiddling with an electronic device. You are not fully aware of what you’re eating. This is mindless eating—a lack of awareness of the food you are consuming.
Habits and Emotion often run your eating habits. What kind of eater are you? Do you eat when you are hungry? So you eat when you are unhappy, stressed or bored? Do you eat regular meals? Do you skip meals? Do you sit down to eat? Do you eat on the run?
Mindful Eating means paying attention to when, what and how you eat.
When you eat mindfully you take the time to sit down, smell and taste the food. It becomes a sensual, tactile experience.
Appreciate your food. …
Eat slowly and without distractions or doing something else
Bring all your senses to the meal. Pay attention to how the food looks, smells and tastes
Take small bites. Chew thoroughly.
Notice how the food makes you feel, in your body and with your emotions.
Enjoy the experience of eating and appreciating the food.
Listen to your body and only eat until you are full.
Some of the benefits of mindful eating include:
- Reduce stress
- Increase enjoyment – you will smell and taste the food you are eating
- Easier digestion
- Eating better
- Making better food choices
Mindful Eating Exercise
This exercise is taken from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Raison exercise. I often use this exercise when teaching mindfulness except I most often substitute chocolate for the raison.
Try this exercise with any item of food you choose, it can be a raison, a piece of chocolate, a piece of fruit or vegetable. Just take a small bit size piece of whatever food choice you have made.
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Come into the present moment by taking a few breaths, noticing how you feel physically.
- Place the food item in your hand. Notice the impulse you might have to pop it all in your mouth right away.
- Look at your food item, examine them it as if you’ve never seen one, like this is your first time full of curiosity.
- Notice how it feels in your hand – the texture, shape and weight. You may want to close your eyes while doing this.
- Notice the color of the color, shape and size and any unique features.
- Slowly bring one piece of food to your nose smell it, what does it smell like. Notice how naturally your arm moves to do this.
- Continue to notice any thoughts of like or dislike you might have of as you observe your food item. Notice whether you’re anticipating what it will taste like. Perhaps you’re starting to salivate or feeling an impulse to put it into your mouth right away.
- If you have chosen a piece of fruit that needs to be peeled. Do so slowly and then slice it into bit size pieces and bring the slice to your nose and smell it before continuing on
- Ever so slowly, place the food item in your mouth, without biting into it. Explore what it feels like in your mouth, notice what your tongue is doing. Keep it in your mouth without chewing for at least 10 seconds. Notice what it’s like to take this time before eating the food item.
- When you are ready, slowly and softly bite into the Food item taking one or two bites.
- Without swallowing, notice what it tastes like, how its flavor and texture changes as you chew. Notice your natural impulse to swallow it.
- Swallow the food item.
- Sit quietly and notice what you are feeling.
- Repeat this three times.
Do this exercise with an item of food you love, then do it with a food you do not like. After the exercise how do you feel about those food items now?
I challenge you to take time and eat a whole meal mindfully following the steps above. Pick one meal this week and follow the guidelines of mindful eating. What did you learn about yourself and your eating habits? What did you learn about the foods you eat?