What is Mindful eating? It is the practice of connecting to the experience of eating, not just repeating the motions of bite & chew, bite & chew without consideration of the actual experience. Mindful eating is a practice I work with clients to accomplish and master so that intuitive eating is achieved. Intuitive eating is the ability to identify nutrition and satiation through the messaging of our own bodies’ reactions. Believe it or not, there can come a day where you look at a plate of cookies and do not desire it, and in fact, the thought may even turn you off completely.
This is because you will be able reduce the noise that distracts us from truth, and that usually comes in the form of “taste = joy”, “delicious = experience”, or sadly for many, “I feel empty” often cured by what we think fills us up. Our emotions have nothing to do with food. They are two separate things, but we spend our lives learning and acting out this idea that we can express love, and happiness… or silence pain, grief and hurt… with food. This creates the very system that crashes our every effort to change and make healthier choices. When you practice mindful eating consistently, you eventually tune in to what you, specifically, need nutritionally. And when you’re tuned in, all that other stuff is no longer desireable. It seems unreal or unattainable, but I challenge you to practice this consistently and see where it leads. Keep a journal or take notes of things you notice.
– Mindful Eating –
As you begin your meal, take a moment to look at your plate. It doesn’t matter what you are eating because this is not about rules, elimination, shame, guilt, right or wrong.
1. Pick up your first bite.
2. Explore your food, using as many of your senses as possible.
3. Look at the food on your fork or spoon (or hand). Notice the texture and color.
4. Use your sense of touch with your eyes closed, and ask: what does it feel like? (hard, smooth, grainy, soft?)
There is no need to think, but simply just notice and observe. This is what it means to eat mindfully.
5. Use your sense of smell as you take the bite in. What does it remind you of? What can you hint of the flavor through its smell? Is there garlic? Can you smell the yeast or even the butter?
6. Begin to eat. No matter the size of your food, take at least two to three bites to finish it. Think of this as getting acquainted with the food, almost like a child trying something for the first time.
7. Chew slowly and notice the very experience of chewing and tasting. Remember, you don’t need to think about your food to experience it. You might want to close your eyes for a moment to focus on the sensations of chewing and tasting, before continuing.
8. Observe the texture, and notice if that changes as you chew.
9. Notice the flavor and if it changes. Does it get more intense or does it become less?
10. Chew slowly. Aim for about 20 slow repetitions before swallowing, being aware of the simple sensations of chewing and tasting.
Next, take your second, third, fourth… and last bite: repeating steps 1 thru 10.
Practice this with at least one snack or meal per day and work your way up to 2 per day and then eventually every meal/snack per day. The more familiar you become with mindful eating, the more you will notice that you don’t have to chew so slowly anymore, or at all, because you are becoming more aware naturally.