One of the most beneficial eating tools in my toolbox is eating mindfully. Having a mindful meal allows you to feel greater satisfaction with what you're eating, allows you to recognize which foods you really like, and learn how to pay attention to your body's internal cues. Eating mindfully goes hand in hand with Intuitive Eating, which you can learn more about here.
Since becoming a dietitian, my perspective on eating has changed. I moved from focusing on weight loss and food rules to turning to my own body, and encouraging my clients and patients to do the same. I wrote a bit about that here. Mindful eating isn't a weight loss technique, it's also not a calorie control technique. Mindful eating may be quite different from how you're eating now, the point of it is to really tune into what you're eating, your feelings, and your experiences while eating and at other times during the day.
While I'm no expert, I have realized a few things, and I work with my clients to increase mindfulness when they eat.
Through practicing mindful eating, I've realized that there are foods that I don't really enjoy that I used to eat frequently, I've also been able to really enjoy the foods that I really like. Mindfulness fosters satisfaction and satisfaction is important because eating can be so enjoyable, it also allows us to be present and in the moment, and listen to our bodies to cue us to continue or stop eating depending on how we're feeling.
Here's What You Can Do to Have a Mindful Meal
I recently bought the Intuitive Eating workbook and took a simple mindful eating exercise and adapted it a bit to meet my clients' needs. Here's what we do:
- Choose a food you eat frequently
- Check-in before eating. Ask yourself how you feel before eating. Are you feeling excited, are you feeling dread, are you tired, are you hungry, etc?
- Smell the food you chose, take note on how it smells, and how it feels too. Place it in your mouth, pay attention to the texture and flavors you notice. Then slowly start chewing, again pay attention to texture and flavors. The flavors may change. Swallow that bite. Continue.
- Check-in while you're eating. Explore the flavor, texture, and smell while eating slowly, does it taste good, does it taste different from what you remember? What else do you notice while eating?
- Describe what you experienced, either by writing it down or telling someone.
- Check-in after you're done eating. How was it? Do you feel satisfied? Did that food meet your expectations. Anything other feelings or thoughts?
Try this & comment or email me with what you experienced. Also remember that this is a practice, it takes time and repetition to eat mindfully.
Also, even though I highly recommend eating mindfully, for most of us, it's not reasonable to always do. Sometimes there isn't time, sometimes we are in a situation where we can't eat foods we really enjoy. That's ok, try to find principles that you've learned from this exercise to incorporate into your usual eating. That'll help a lot & bring a lot of insight. If you'd like more support, let's talk.
I'll answer a few questions to help you get started:
How can I be mindful while eating?
You can be mindful by just paying attention to your feelings, thoughts, and how the food tastes while you're eating. Check out the section above for a rough guide to have a mindful eating session.
What is an example of mindful eating?
An easy example is to choose a food you really like, smell it, then place it on your tongue. Note the texture and flavor on your tongue. Then slowly start to chew and pay attention to the flavors and experiences you have while chewing it. Mindful eating is about a) paying attention to how a food tastes & your experiences eating it but also b) your feelings and thoughts about eating that food. What stories are you telling yourself while you're eating? Scroll up 2 sections to follow my simple mindful eating guide to get started.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
Diet culture teaches us to disconnect from our bodies, from food, and eating. It teaches us to not listen to our internal cues. We're taught to not eat some favorite foods, we're taught to force ourselves to eat other foods. That's a terrible life. Mindful eating is a simple way to connect back to our bodies and to eat delicious food. Some benefits of mindful eating are the ability to tune into our bodies, our feelings about food, and to recognize which foods we actually like. Our bodies have a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom, learning how to tune into that is empowering and will bring joy back into our eating experiences. Plus it helps us feel less stressed about eating.
Now tell me, have you ever had a mindful meal? I'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts on it!