We are all guilty of eating mindlessly at times, watching TV and finishing a whole bag of chips or eating a whole meal and not even realizing that we ate it. Just like other mindful exercises, mindful eating is paying attention to eating and eating with intention. Slowing down on purpose to realize what we are putting in our mouths, and making sure it’s really what we want to be doing.
Repairing Our Relationship with Food
We have to repair our relationship with food, be grateful for its abundance, taste the flavors and savour every bite. We need to ditch the guilt, and eat when we are hungry with the intention of nourishing ourselves.
Mindful eating can be the gift we need to stop the struggle and learn how to eat intuitively. When we slow down, we notice what we are doing, and can observe behaviors that don’t necessarily benefit us in the long run. We begin to notice our physical and emotional cues for hunger; what emotional issues trigger us to eat when we are not hungry. We begin to recognize what foods our body needs for optimal nourishment and pleasure, and what foods ultimately punish us.
Think about eating like a wine connoisseur sips wine. We can first smell our food, think about where it came from, take a small bite and really taste what we are eating. Savour each bite and think about what it feels like in our mouths. Lastly notice how we feel when we eat or drink it.
When to Practice Mindful Eating
I don’t expect you to eat mindfully 100% of the time. This is probably next to impossible. It would be ideal if we could just focus on our eating when eating, and not watch TV, read the paper or catch up on emails. But life just isn’t like that, things take precedence, demand our attention, distract us from the moment. But if you can practice mindful eating whenever you can, even once or twice a week, it will help train you to slow down and focus and let mindfulness become a bigger and bigger part of every meal. Simply eating slower will not only keep us mindful, but our digestion will be better and we will have better conversations.
My favorite mindful eating time is when I have my favorite dessert at the French place in my town. They have a gluten-free almond flour berry torte and I absolutely can’t resist ordering it. My order is with intention because I know I am going to eat it and enjoy every bite. I slow down the conversation at bit when it comes, and savor the flavors in my mouth, fully experience the pie. I try not to eat the whole thing and am mindful of my portion but when you slow down, you feel satiated and don’t feel the need to over eat. The key to this behavior is that I do not feel guilty afterwards or the next day. That was a once in awhile pleasure that I chose to enjoy and will not feel guilty about.
Believe or not, the way you feel about your food when you eat it does have an affect on weight gain. Remember there is a mind body connection, and if you feel guilty when you’re eating it sends a signal to your gut-brain. Pleasure produces endorphins. Endorphins affect your hormones and stimulate fat burning. When you take pleasure in your food, it makes a difference in how you metabolize it. Pretty amazing stuff.
Mindful Eating Exercise
Want to strengthen your mindful eating muscle? Try this mindful eating experiment:
Take a piece of dark chocolate or a raisin. Take some breaths and pause between each step that is listed.
- Look at this food as if you have never seen it before. Describe what it looks like, what shape, color, etc.
- Smell it. What is going on in your body or mouth when you look and smell it.
- Touch it. What does it feel like- texture?
- Now bring it up to your mouth, without putting it inside. What was that like? Any reactions, physically or emotionally?
- Put the food in your mouth. Just feel on your tongue and in your mouth without swallowing it. What does the texture feel like, any impulses to chew or swallow?
- Slowly chew, and notice what flavors are released.
- Swallow and notice what that experience is like.
- Breathe, be silent for a minute and reflect. Is it as if you tasted for the first time?
This exercise along with slowing down and listening to your hunger cues will help you become a mindful, intuitive eater and help you even lose some weight in the process!