Are you Mindful while Eating?
Have you ever finished a candy bar and wished you had just one more bite? Are you surprised when your hand hits the bottom of the popcorn bucket at the movies? Do you ever feel completely stuffed and miserable after you eat? These are all symptoms of mindless or unconscious eating. Many people eat while they watch TV, drive, while working. Many people also eat way too fast. They are so busy rushing or working, or watching TV that they are filling the next forkful that they barely acknowledge the bite in their mouth. Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time so by eating this way you will miss the signs of fullness so you won’t stop until you feel uncomfortable or until you run out of food. Most importantly, you won’t enjoy your food as much so you have to eat more to feel satisfied.
Choosing to eat “mindfully,” in other words, giving food and eating your full attention, will allow you to have optimal satisfaction and enjoyment without eating to excess. Mindful eating makes it possible for you to acknowledge the difference between physical satisfaction and being outright stuffed full of food. Mindful will also allow you to feel more satisfied with smaller much smaller portions. Learning to savor your food simply makes eating more enjoyable. Knowing what satisfies you and getting the most enjoyment from your eating experiences are essential tools to have for a lifetime of healthier eating habits, and weight control
Here are a few steps to help you practice Mindful Eating
1. Sit down at a table, preferably alone, and free from any external distractions. Before you even pick up the food to eat, take a couple of deep breaths –- in through the nose and out through the mouth -– to allow the body and mind to settle. If there are outside noises, pay them not mind.
2. Next, take a moment to truly appreciate the food. Where is it from? What are it’s origins? A farm? A factory? Try to imagine the different ingredients in their natural growing environment and even the types of people who would have been looking after the crops or animal. Envision the factory workers preparing the food. Who are they?
3. As you’re doing this notice if you have any sense of impatience in the mind, of wanting to get on and eat the food. Perhaps you’re thinking of all the things you need to do. Whatever the reaction, it’s most likely just conditioned behavior — a habit — but one that you may find surprisingly strong. Regardless of the feeling, take at least a minute to reflect in this way.
4. Next take a moment to appreciate the fact that you actually have food on your plate, when many in the world do not. A deep sense of appreciation and gratitude is at the heart of any stable mindfulness practice.
5. If it’s a food you’re going to eat with your hands, notice the texture as you pick it up, the temperature, and even the colors. If you’re eating from a plate with a knife and fork, notice instead the texture and temperature of the cutlery as you move it toward the food, but still take the time to notice the colors on the plate. Notice the contrast of the colors of the food, next to the colors of the plate. Appreciate how the meal appears on the plate.
6. As you move the food toward your mouth, shift the focus away from the hands and more toward the eyes, nose and mouth. How does the food smell? What does it look like up close? And, as you put it in your mouth, what is the taste, the texture, the temperature? This is not an action, you are simply observing all of the senses and how they are working. Once the bite of food is in your mouth, place the fork on the plate while you chew.
7. Next, notice how the mind responds to the food. Perhaps it’s too hot, too cold, too sweet or too salty. Notice how the mind rushes to judge the food. Whatever you do, take the time to chew the food fully. Not only is this a healthier way of eating, but it will allow you the time to taste and appreciate all the different flavors, textures and sensations of the bite of food while it is in your mouth.
8. Once you’ve taken a few mouthfuls, you may find that the mind starts wander off into thinking about something else. This is quite normal. In the same way as before, as soon as you realize it’s wandered, gently bring your attention back to the process of eating, and the different tastes, smells, textures, sights and sounds.
9. Continue to eat your meal in this way. As you do, pay attention to any urges to speed up your eating. Notice if there are feelings of unease about what you’re eating. If it’s an especially big meal, you may even notice the desire to consume gradually decreasing as the stomach becomes full and you become more aware of these sensations. As much as possible, simply observe these different thoughts and feelings and pay attention to your breathing. The breath may give you some indication of how comfortable or uncomfortable the process of eating is for you.
10. Before rushing off to get on with the next thing you have planned for your day, stay seated for a few moments. This is an opportunity for you to take that sense of being present to the next part of your day. It’s an opportunity to realize that the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that were present before eating have now moved on to satisfied feelings.