Where's your head when you eat?
Do you ever finish a meal and feel like you didn’t even experience it because your mind was so lost in other things while you were eating?
Does this leave you looking for more food even though your belly is saying “I’m full”?
The mind and stomach work together in the eating process to register fullness and satisfaction (what we call satiety).
If you’re not mindful when you eat, you may end up eating much more than you need.
The practice of mindful eating has been researched and proven beneficial, to help people be more “in control” of their eating.
Mindful eating brings you into the awareness of your own actions, thoughts, feelings, and motivations related to eating.
So how do you practice mindful eating?
Dr. Susan Albers, author of Eating Mindfully, offers the following:
Start with one mealtime: breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Choose a specific location to eat, such as your table or the lunchroom at work.
Sit quietly. Don’t get up, and don’t answer the phone.
Have all the food you intend to eat on the table in front of you before starting.
To be mindful you must give your full attention to your eating. You must focus on the process of eating and enjoying your meal.
Dr. Albers suggests that one way to slow down the process of eating is to challenge the way you have always done it.
For example, try eating using a pair of chopsticks instead of your customary utensils. This will force you to take smaller portions, eat more slowly, and look at your food more closely. Other strategies include eating with your non-dominant hand, chewing your food 30 to 50 times per bite, or trying to make the portion of food you’ve taken for the meal last 20 minutes.
Observe the sensation of picking up the food and placing it in your mouth.
In Coming to Our Senses, mindfulness guru Jon Kabat Zinn says, “When we taste with attention, even the simplest foods provide a universe of sensory experience, awakening us to them.”
The Raisin Consciousness is an exercise Jon Kabat Zinn uses with his clients as a first meditation.
Raisin Meditation (Note: if you don’t like raisins, you can use another fruit or nut.)
- Sit comfortably in a chair.
- Place a raisin in your hand.
- Examine the raisin as if you had never seen it before.
- Imagine it as its “plump self” growing on the vine surrounded by nature.
- As you look at the raisin, become conscious of what you see: the shape, texture, color, size. Is it hard or soft?
- Bring the raisin to your nose and smell it.
- Are you anticipating eating the raisin? Is it difficult not to just pop it in your mouth?
- How does the raisin feel? How small it is in your hand?
- Place the raisin in your mouth. Become aware of what your tongue is doing.
- Bite ever so lightly into the raisin. Feel its squishiness.
- Chew three times and then stop.
- Describe the flavor of the raisin. What is the texture?
- As you complete chewing, swallow the raisin.
- Sit quietly, breathing, aware of what you are sensing.
Kabat Zinn discusses the experience like this:
“The raisin exercise dispels all previous concepts we may be harboring about meditation. It immediately places it in the realm of the ordinary, the everyday, the world you already know but are now going to know differently. Eating one raisin very, very slowly allows you to drop right into the knowing in ways that are effortless, totally natural, and entirely beyond words and thinking. Such an exercise delivers wakefulness immediately. There is in this moment only tasting.”
In summary, work to be more present when you eat. Turn off the TV and computer. Stop texting. Sit down and make friends with your food.
Multi-tasking while eating was a bad habit for me, but when I just eat and do nothing else, I feel much more relaxed, in control, and satisfied with less food.
Try it and let me know!