Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. We pay attention to the experience of the body.
Where in the body do we feel hunger?
Where do we feel satisfaction?
What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full?
We also pay attention to the mind. While avoiding judgment or criticism, we watch when the mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what we are eating or drinking. We watch the impulses that arise after we’ve taken a few sips or bites: to grab a book, to turn on the TV, to call someone on our cell phone, or to do web search on some interesting subject. We notice the impulse and return to just eating.
We notice how eating affects our mood and how our emotions like anxiety influence our eating. Gradually we regain the sense of ease and freedom with eating that we had in childhood. It is our natural birthright.
The old habits of eating and not paying attention are not easy to change. Don’t try to make drastic changes. Lasting change takes time, and is built on many small changes. We start simply.
The benefits of bringing mindfulness to the table
- Reduced over eating.
- Increased enjoyment of food.
- Improved digestion. Digestion begins in the mouth with the action of saliva. If food isn’t chewed properly it means that there’s more work for the rest of your digestion system.
- Being satisfied with food. The real benefit here is being able to trust yourself to feel satisfied after one or two squares of chocolate so there is no temptation to scoff the whole block. Suddenly there’s no need to deny yourself the occasional treat which makes for a far healthier relationship with food.
How master the art of mindful eating:
- Start small. Like all new habits, it’s best to set realistic expectations. Choose one meal or snack each day and commit to focusing on mindful eating at that time.
- Stop multitasking at meal times. It’s really difficult to focus on eating if you’re doing other things. Set aside time for eating without other entertainment.
- Only eat at the table. Another way to minimize mindless munching is to get into the habit of only eating when you are sitting down and able to give the food your full attention. No more snacking on the run.
- Focus on each mouthful. Think about the flavor, texture and even the sound of the food in your mouth. Focus on how much you prefer or do not prefer these sensations.
- Talk and share. One of the joys of eating is sharing a meal with loved ones. It can be challenging to incorporate mindfulness in a social situation but not impossible. Turn the focus of the conversation onto the meal while you are actually eating. Share what you are experiencing in terms of flavors and textures. At first this may seem a little weird but trust me, you’ll soon find yourself having fun with it, and feel like you are on the Food Network.
Enjoy your meal!
Adrien Paczosa, RD,LD