Are You Minding Your Food? Mindfulness seems to be one of the new buzz words. If you google it or search in YouTube you’ll find tons of corresponding sites. Most people attribute it to breathing and reducing stress and anxiety. What about eating? Yes, eating. Applying mindfulness to your eating process can actually create positive lasting effects that help you develop a healthier body and mind. So if you have found yourself unhappily facing multiple empty packs, or cartons, of that favorite food, and you just couldn’t seem to put the brakes on to stop, then mindfulness just may be a great tool to help.
In this fast-paced world, grabbing a bite to eat as you rush from one task to another has become a norm for many. Stopping to experience the food…...who has time for that? I get it you’re busy, hence the fast eating. But do your eating habits just stop with quick eating or do you find yourself overeating? Craving food all the time? Episodes of secret eating? These situations speak to more than just not having time to enjoy your food. These incidents should begin to show you that it’s time to reconstruct your body and food relationship. To ask, are you minding your food? Let’s take a look at what happens when you get mindful of your eating.
Why Mindful Eating
Basically, the aspect of mindfulness is to be present and engaged in a moment. A judgement free breaktime for your mind. So how do you apply that to eating? I’m glad you asked. Mindful eating goes beyond just acknowledging that you’re eating, to totally immersing yourself in the experience of dining. Studies have shown that mindful eating can help promote better heart health, regulate blood sugar levels, help with better stress response, to name just a few. As far as the body and food relationship, that’s one of the beautiful experiences of mindful eating.
Mindful eating takes the act of eating and breaks it down into tiny segments. You are teaching yourself to use all five senses as you eat. Using each of your senses in the eating process does several things. It helps you pay attention to what is about to enter your body, not just if it smells good, but everything about it. It’s about not just noticing what the food looks, tastes, smells, feels, and sounds like, but now you begin to notice how your body responds to this information. You may suddenly discover something new and amazing about that favorite snack that you never noticed. Who knew that cookie dough ice cream had that subtle hint of vanilla? Or you may notice that you don’t like something about what you’re eating. Since when did that cookie filling start being so grainy or smell like motor oil?
Whether amazing or slightly off-putting, taking the time to be mindful of your food leads to direct connection between your body and food during the eating experience. You become attuned to signals of being full. Signals of actual hunger versus cravings. You become aware of how your body feels before, during, and after eating. You begin to notice things like, are you eating because you’re hungry, or are you bored, lonely, etcetera. You will also begin to recognize what types of food you may gravitate towards during emotional moments in life. These are ways you begin to reconnect with what your body is saying during eating, and help the answer to “are you minding your food?” become a yes.
What Does Mindful Eating Look Like
So let’s give it a try. You can print out the worksheet included or just grab a piece of paper. You want to record your findings to help really tune in. Now let’s begin. Find something to eat, a piece of fruit, a drink, or that meal you just heated up.
First, take a good look at what you’re about to put in your mouth. Let your eyes pick up as many details as you can. See the deep richness of the color? The smoothness or bumpiness of the texture. What else do you see?Write down your observations.
2. Next, what does it smell like? What’s that fragrance you’re picking up? Are there layers of smells? Don’t forget to write down your observations.
3. What does it feel like? I know we’ve been told not to play with our food, but take a minute and just observe. Is it cold, hot, rough, or smooth? Write down your . thoughts.
4. Now taste it. What are the various subtle flavors that are tantalizing your tongue? Is that a hint of cinnamon? Did the smooth, mellow taste of coffee just tantalize your taste buds? What about the texture? Is it grainy, creamy or crisp and crunchy? Don’t forget to write down your discoveries.
5. What are your ears saying? Is that a crunch as you bite down? Or was that bite . quiet?
Example of Recording Chart
Food Chosen: _______________________________________
What do I see?
Colors, texture, design…….
What does it feel like?
Smooth, rough, lumpy….
What does it smell like?
Fruity, citrusy, sweet, savory…….
What do I taste?
Flavors, sweet, salty, spicy…….
What sounds do I hear?
Loud, crunchy, soft, squishy sounding…...
What Can Be Gained From Mindful Eating
As you break the eating experience into small parts, you begin to re-establish how the food you are eating is interacting with your body. It becomes more than just insert, chew, swallow, repeat. Mindful eating causes you to be present in the moment and not just go on autopilot and miss how your body is responding. Enjoyment? Dissatisfaction? Both experiences are valuable teaching moments and lead to a better awareness of you. Taking the time to mind your food is also taking the time to get in touch with yourself and the part that food is playing in your life and how it contributes to bingeing. So, the next time you get that urge to satisfy that craving, take a minute and try mindful versus mindlessly eating. Who knows what you’ll discover.
If you would like further support along your journey to mindful eating, please schedule an appointment with a trained therapist who can help you use mindfulness to develop a positive body and food eating experience. Support is just a phone call away. Call (215) 922-LOVE (5683), ext. 100. A therapist at The Center for Growth will be happy to help you. We have offices in Society Hill, Philadelphia; Ocean City, New Jersey; Mechanicsville, Virginia. We also work with clients virtually in many other states.