Everything You Need To Know About Mindful Eating
I’ve written about the value of mindfulness and awareness before, and another way to try to incorporate mindfulness into your life is through eating. Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors are far too common these days, but even people who consider themselves to be healthy eaters tend to not have a lot of awareness about their eating. So many of us gulp down our meals, keep eating without realizing we are full, or eat while in front of the TV, behind a computer, or in the car. It is rare that we take the time to really enjoy our food, which is a shame because eating can be a truly pleasurable experience.
There’s actually a very powerful relationship between eating and sex. I’ve found that the way you approach eating can be quite similar to the way you approach sex. Are you always rushed? Do you take the time to savor? Do you overindulge or deprive yourself? Taking a look at your eating tendencies can reveal a lot about your relationship to sex!
If you are interested in experimenting with being more aware during eating, here are a few exercises you can try:
Pick a meal during which you will try to incorporate mindful eating. Make sure you have at least 20 minutes to sit down and eat your food. If it is possible to be alone and in a quiet place away from distractions, that is preferable. Go through the following steps:
- Put all of the food that you plan on eating directly in front of you.
- Take a seat, and allow yourself to simply look at your food. Take in all of the details of your meal. What colors are on your plate? What textures? How is your food arranged? What catches your attention the most?
- Shift your attention to the smells of your food. You may even want to put your face right up next to your food and smell all of the different aromas. What distinct scents can you pick out?
- See if you can tune in to your emotional experience in the moment. What are you feeling as you look at your food and prepare to eat it? Are you sad? Happy? Angry? Irritated? Lonely? Do any memories come to mind? What do you notice in your body?
- Try touching your food. Feel the different textures and temperatures of the items on your plate. Poke at it, caress it, pick it up, squish it. If you are feeling adventurous, you may want to try eating with your hands.
- Take one small bite, and shift your attention to the taste of your food. Try to hold the food in your mouth long enough to give you a chance to explore it. How does the food feel on your tongue? Try moving the food to different parts of your mouth and noticing how it feels in those other places. Do you notice different flavors in different parts of your mouth? How does your mouth notice the temperature of the food? How does it feel to notice your teeth starting to chew the food? How does the sensation change when you move to swallowing?
- Let yourself really slow down and enjoy the experience of eating your food. After you finish your meal, sit quietly for a few minutes to take in the entirety of the experience. How was it different from how you usually eat? What has this experience been like for you?
Another exercise to try is keeping a food journal for at least three days. Find a small notebook that you can easily carry with you for three days, or create a notepad on your smartphone. For three days, keep a detailed list of every single item you eat or drink. Try to be as detailed as possible about the exact type and amount of food. Even if you only have one bite of something, write it down. Notice how taking this extra step might affect your eating patterns. Does looking at the list at the end of the day surprise you? Did you forget to add certain things to the list? Did you stop yourself from eating something? Did you feel more aware of your eating?
Many of us have complicated relationships with food. To discuss your relationship with eating in further detail, call (415) 658-5738 or visit my Appointments page to set up a consultation.