Have you ever rushed through a meal and felt kind of sick afterwards? Maybe you are rushing because you feel like you do not have time or maybe it is because you are trying to avoid feeling a certain way.
Have you ever taken the time to truly experience and enjoy a bite of any meal? You often see people on TV shows groaning because the food was that good and then quickly going in for a second bite. This is NOT mindful eating. It is accepting that the food is so delicious you are having more, whether you genuinely want more or not.
In today’s busy lifestyle of rushing to work, rushing to pick up the kids, rushing to feed them and yourself and rushing to any evening activities or just rushing to get everyone to bed so you can start it all over again tomorrow it can be extra difficult to imagine taking time to mindfully eat.
However, not all distractions are as in your face as your body physically moving place to place. Even eating with distractions such as scanning social media, driving, standing at the counter while thinking about the million things you need to do today is considered mindlessly eating. This can lead to you missing out on the eating experience leaving you with a longing to repeat the behaviour.
If you imagine having a conversation with someone, the other person knows your listening when you respond appropriately at the right time with all your concentration. If you are trying to multitask while chatting with a friend, there is a good chance they know they do not have your full attention. Now change the conversation to eating and your friend to your body. When you eat distractedly, your body knows you are not truly giving it all your concentration and may try to get your attention more aggressively in the future to get around this disconnection.
Distracted eaters tend to:
- Eat faster
- Not remember what they ate
- Eat more snacks
- Report feeling significantly less full
It has become very typical to shut down any conversation your body tries to start because your mind has a different idea based on what it has learned through culture, upbringing, or past experiences. While it is great to learn from your past, listening and understanding your own body is not something typically taught. Instead the opposite is usually the learnt lesson. Push through, you need more willpower, or be tough are all phrases you have probably heard your whole life. When what you should be doing is taking time to check in with yourself. What do you need right now? Being mindful of your body’s side of the conversation is a key building block to Intuitive Eating. Practicing mindful eating is a great way to increase your general mindfulness by restarting an open conversation with your body. It is not the whole picture, but it is a simple place to start.
Mindful Eating 101
Try to practice mindful eating once a day. Whether this is one meal, snack or just even a bite of food, start somewhere and work up from there. Practicing regularly makes it feel less weird and tells your body you are committed to having a true conversation. Wash your hands and find a quiet, comfortable, seated space to practice this exercise. You want to be free from distractions so you can give all your concentration to what you are experiencing.
Choose something small, the first time I did this exercise it was with a chocolate covered raisin.
- Pick up the food item and look at it. What colour is it? What shape is it?
- Touch the food. What is the texture like? Smooth, rough, etc. Is it hard or soft? Did it feel the way you thought it would? What temperature is it?
- Smell the food. Try to come up with words to define the smell. What does it smell like to you?
- Put the food in your mouth, try not to bite it. Let it sit on your tongue and notice what happens in your mouth. Did something change? Move it around. What does the food feel like in your mouth? What are the first tastes?
- Take a bite. What did you notice when you bit into the food? Did you hear anything? Was the center the same as the outside? Was there a crunch or was it soft?
- Continue to bite the food noticing any changes to the food as you continue to crush it up.
- Swallow the food when safe to do so and notice any lingering tastes or feelings in your mouth. How do you feel when the food has left your mouth, do you want more, or do you feel satisfied?
Practicing the above steps everyday can drastically improve your relationship with food and your body. Paying attention to your body’s responses means you are better connected. Again, this is just the first step to general body mindfulness. But you can apply these practices to other conversations with your body. I would love to hear about your experience with mindful eating, feel free to send me a message or comment below.