Written by Dara Garner-Edwards, LCSW, Brenner FIT
What is mindful eating? How can it help you?
Mindful eating is a way of thinking about our eating, and it can completely change our relationship with food. In our hectic lives, as we work, drive children to activities and rush through meals, we can easily lose focus while eating. Mindful eating brings taste, hunger and fullness cues back on our radar.
Try an experiment. This activity allows you to take time for yourself and notice the taste of your food.
- Choose two of your favorite snack or comfort foods. Place them on a plate.
- Pick a quiet place and sit with these foods in front of you.
- Close your eyes and consider the foods on your plate. Take your time and let your breathing slow.
- Select one of the foods to try first. Think about how you made this choice.
- Take a bite and chew it slowly and mindfully with your eyes closed. Taste carefully and notice when you choose to swallow.
- Take a second bite and chew it slowly and mindfully with your eyes closed. Taste carefully and notice when you choose to swallow.
- Take a second bite of the same food and practice chewing slowly and mindfully. Notice the taste and sensations as you chew.
- Continue with a third bite, if you like.
- Switch to the second food and repeat the same steps. Eat slowly and mindfully.
- What did you notice about the taste and texture of your food? Are you hungry of full?
Taking the time to taste our food and notice when we are hungry or full (or satisfied) can be enlightening. We can discover new things about our eating habits and what our bodies tell us. By practicing mindful eating, we are not committing to long, silent meditation exercises (although those can be part of mindful eating). We are finding ways to slow down and notice what we eat.
For example, when I eat my favorite mac and cheese while rushing to get my kids to soccer, I tend to eat more and enjoy it less. I want to eat more because I didn't notice the delicious bites I'd already eaten. Applying mindful eating techniques while eating my mac and cheese, I notice the smooth texture and cheesiness of its taste. I also recall memories of family gatherings while growing up. I can eat fewer bites with greater satisfaction and am less likely to overeat, even on this delicious comfort food. And, if I notice I am overeating, I can do so with less guilt because I'm noticing my choice to eat the amount I am eating at that time.