What Mindful Eating Means
You may have heard about mindfulness and mindful eating. Mindfulness has been shown to help people build skills to cope with a variety of different challenges, from chronic disease to emotional health. But what is mindfulness?
Paying Attention with Purpose
Mindfulness is being present in the current moment, intentionally and in a non-judgmental way. This means paying attention with purpose. Mindfulness practices include mindful breathing, mindful listening, mindful meditation, and yes, mindful eating.
Why Eat Mindfully?
When managing your weight, you might focus on the rules of eating healthy: calorie and fat counts, portion control, and nutrition, which are all important. But you may not think about how you feel about or interact with your food. Mindful eating helps you focus on the experience of eating, allowing you to savor the flavor, scent, and texture of your food. This can help you appreciate and enjoy what you are eating and worry less about what you are not eating. It may also help you realize when you're feeling full and make better food choices, even when you are stressed.
Try the Raisin
An easy way to try mindful eating is the Raisin Activity. Get a raisin or some other dried fruit if you don’t like raisins. Then read through the steps and try it on your own.
Pick it up:
How does it feel? Is it heavy or light? Where is it rough or smooth?
Look at it:
Are areas shiny or dull? Are the colors the same or different?
Place the raisin in your mouth but do not chew:
What do you feel? What do you taste?
Bite down once:
What do you notice about the flavor and texture?
What does each bite feel like?
As you are focusing on this activity, other thoughts may come to mind. That’s normal. Acknowledge those thoughts, put them aside, and refocus. When you are done, think about how different it was to eat food this way.
Next time you feel like having a sweet snack, put a small amount of it in your bowl and take your time with it. Enjoy it mindfully.
It’s All About Attitude
The first step to practicing any mindful technique is to approach it with a certain outlook. Here are some approaches you can try to build a mindful attitude.
Don’t Judge: Think about the raisin activity. You may or may not like raisins. That means you have an opinion or judgment about them. Start with being aware of how these opinions affect your experience of eating
Practice Patience: Eating mindfully takes time and attention. That means having patience to allow yourself to take that time.
Be a Beginner: Approach the process as if you have never done it before. It may help you understand what you are feeling now, instead of what you have experienced in the past.
Accept: Be willing to open yourself to what happens when you eat mindfully. Accept what is positive and what is challenging, without judgement.
Let Go: Let go of assumptions and resentment about eating and food. It can allow you to be open to new experiences.
How to Eat Mindfully
So how do you get started? Here are some tips to try the next time you sit down for a meal:
Check Your Feelings. Before you reach for something to satisfy your hunger, pause and assess your emotions. Are you upset or happy? Stressed? Are you really hungry or just reacting to an emotion? If you are reacting to an emotion, consider some other activity to cope with that emotion. Take a walk, call a friend, or reach out to your support team.
Eat and Only Eat. Many of us live busy lives and often multi-task. But that can mean that you eat automatically and maybe more than you intended. Eat without distraction. Turn off the TV, close the computer, put down the phone. Focus on what you are eating and savor each bite.
Appreciate Your Food. As you enjoy your meal, consider what it took to get the food to your plate. Where did it come from? How was it grown or made? How did it get to you? How was it prepared? Spending time thinking about how your food got here may help you appreciate each bite even more.
Learning to eat mindfully takes time and that’s OK. Mindful eating can help you appreciate and enjoy the foods you are eating now, rather than feeling restricted. That may help you stay on track and better able to reach your goal. Try it today.