What Does “Mindful Eating” Really Mean?
The term “mindful eating” seems to be tossed around a lot in connection with losing weight.
Mindfulness is a Buddhist meditation practice that involves bringing all your awareness to the here and now, to the sensations in our bodies and our breathing, for example, rather than letting much of our attention slip away in contemplation of the past and future or of thoughts and images that are not real. The assumption is that when we act with full awareness, our actions are more likely to achieve what we intend, and that when we feel with full awareness, we are more likely to feel fulfilled.
Many people eat semi-consciously, on autopilot, chewing and swallowing food without really tasting it or focusing attention on the next bite before they have enjoyed the present one. Others talk, read, or watch television while they eat, directing their attention incompletely to their food.
One consequence of this type of unmindful eating is overeating and, of course, the end result of that is being overweight or obese.
Have you ever mindlessly shoveled in quantities of popcorn or chips while watching a movie or staring at a television screen? Another consequence of unmindful eating is missing the full sensory pleasure of food and enjoyment of meals.
A famous exercise in mindfulness training is putting a raisin in your mouth to see how long you can keep it there without chewing and swallowing it, while focusing all your attention on its taste and texture. Try it for some firsthand mindfulness practice.
Have you noticed that when food is really good, conversation at the table is reduced to a minimum as people concentrate on the enjoyment of the moment? As a result, they are likely to eat less and enjoy their meal more.
Breaking mindless habits of eating requires motivation and practice. When food is served to you, take a moment to fully appreciate its appearance and aroma before starting to eat. When you first taste it, try to give it your full attention.
Eating mindfully means slowing down, expressing gratitude for the food we are eating, being satisfied with food, and paying attention to why we eat. Try rating your level of hunger, before, during and asfter the meal. This will help to regulate how much food you eat. If you get into the habit of mindful eating it will help steer you away from unhealthy relationships with food and that it heightens the pleasure of the experience.
FUN MINDFUL PRACTICE
- Prepare everyone’s favourite healthy snacks. (chopped apples, fruit,
- Set the table for the family or friends
- when everyone is seated, explain that you will all be eating mindfully
- Ask everyone to close their eyes
- Ask everyone to notice their level of hunger for example
- Observe where that feeling of hunger is coming from
- rate how hungry you are between 1-10
- Bring their food plates to the table
- Ask guests to imagine that when they open their eyes, they are looking at food for the first time!
- Ask guests to look at their food and imagine they have never seen it
- Note the shape and colour with curiosity
- lift up food and hold it, how does it feel
- Smell it and note the aroma. Is it earthy, sweet, spicy, sour or fragrant. is the aroma strong, or faint
- Notice what’s happening inside your mouth in anticipation of eating
- Is it difficult to resist eating it
- bring it towards your mouth, does your tongue offer the food a place to sit
- place the food in your mouth, rest it on your tongue, but don’t chew it for a moment
- At last, slowly begin to chew your food, savouring it’s flavour
- Notice the texture and taste, observe the flavours
- Is it sweet, sours, salty or bitter? Is it crunchy or smooth, or creamy
- How does it sound.
- Swallow your food and observe what happens as it moves down into your stomach
- Are you left with an aftertaste?
- Now after swallowing, rate your hunger from 1-10
- remember to eat all of your food slowly!
- Take a moment to appreciate all the food you have eaten, where it came from, how the food miraculoously gets absorbed by the body for growth and energy