Mindful Eating with Gratitude | Counseling | Therapy

Mindful Eating with Gratitude

Samantha Eisenberg , MSW, LCSW, MED, LMT — Therapist

Mindful Eating with Gratitude - Mindfulness Practices image

Mindfulness practices, such as mindful eating, is a strategy we can use to be fully present when consuming foods by using our five senses to focus on the here and now. Mindful eating With Gratitude additionally brings a sense of joy and connection to that process. Why use mindfulness practices to be present when eating? We live our lives in such a fast paced manner that sometimes we miss out on the joys of eating. Many of us also use food as a distraction or a way to cope with difficult emotions, or perhaps we eat when we are already distracted, and end up mindlessly consuming quantities or types of food that could negatively impact our health.

Not only does food provide opportunities to connect with other people, but implementing mindfulness practices like mindful eating with gratitude can help us feel appreciative of all it took to get that food on our plates. This sense of appreciation can make us feel connected to others, to ourselves, to the earth, and whatever greater power we believe lies beyond or within. You may already be familiar with how some religions and cultures traditionally bless food before eating it. That isn’t too far from this idea of mindful eating with gratitude, as both allow the consumer to be truly present and appreciative to the experience of eating.

Additionally, science has shown that gratitude is beneficial to our health. Researchers have discovered that thoughts impact how you feel, and that feelings are caused by the release of different chemical processes in the body, whether that’s oxytocin making you feel lovey dovey or adrenaline making you feel pumped up. It has been found that thinking thoughts of gratitude and appreciation shifts your mood and makes you feel happier. Gratitude practices are one of the proven ways we fight depression and Mindfulness practices have become widely integrated into therapy treatment due to their proven profound effect in maintaining wellbeing.

Mindfulness practices, like mindful eating with gratitude, can also aid us in managing disordered eating habits or diagnosed eating disorders. For example, being more present before, during, and after eating can allow you to better notice and listen to hunger cues, and to know when you’ve had enough. Whether you binge or restrict, mindfulness practices can help you notice unhelpful eating patterns as well as the limiting, irrational, or fear based thoughts that come up around food and your body. Using mindfulness practices can help you observe more information about how different foods make you feel. Sometimes it’s not our own intuition that we can’t trust, but rather society’s obsession with an unobtainable beauty standard and diet culture that makes it hard to know what we’re supposed to do and instills shame for eating how we want. When being mindful about food, eating becomes more intuitive as you learn to trust your “gut” (pun intended!) about what, how, and when is best to eat for your own unique body. Mindfulness practices such as mindful eating with gratitude give you the chance to make more conscious choices, to be empowered and in charge, and to proudly make those choices no matter if you’re eating a salad or a donut. The gratitude bit helps you enjoy that choice even more. If you’re gonna eat a donut, for example, even if it’s a deviation from your nutritional plan, you might as well love the hell out of it and savor every second! Be grateful that you have such a delicious treat! Alternatively, if you’re gonna eat a salad (and this isn’t your favorite meal), you can at least appreciate the vegetables for growing, the workers for getting it to you, and yourself for making a choice that could sustain health in the future. In mindful practices, one of the most important tenets is non judgment. Whatever you choose, choose consciously and choose confidently.

Mindfulness Practices: Mindful Eating with Gratitude- EXERCISE INSTRUCTIONS
For this exercise of mindful eating with gratitude, pick a food you feel neutral about, not your favorite or least favorite food, and something you can eat several bites of, perhaps like berries, nuts, bites of a sandwich, MnMs. Pick something with texture if you can.

Mindfulness practices: Mindful eating with Gratitude- INFUSE FOOD WITH APPRECIATION
Take a few deep relaxing breaths. As you exhale, let out a sigh, and release the tension you may have stored in your body. Let go of any thoughts that take you away from this moment and bring your focus to the food that lies before you.

If you’re going to eat something that comes directly from the earth, picture the seed from which it grew. If you’re eating something a little more removed, identify an ingredient that did grow from the ground, and picture that seed.

Gaze with awe at your food as you picture the seed from which it came, full of potential for life. With water and soil it grew into this amazing, yummy, edible thing, or perhaps it was mixed into the thing in front of you, a part of it, or the start of it.

Imagine the seed being planted, then see it gathering nutrients from the soil around it and slowly, beautifully, it sprouts through the dirt. Watch it grow, eventually taking it’s full form, ready to be consumed, ready to nurture you. Take a moment to thank the earth for providing nutrients for that seed to grow and for the wisdom within the seed to become its full potential.

Thank the people who found, gathered, and harvested those seeds or their fruits. Thank the dedicated farmers who give their lives to planting and harvesting. Imagine yourself smiling and waving to the workers, perhaps shaking their hands, sharing your appreciation for their hard work.

Send gratitude for the minds that created the machinery to produce, package, and transport these products with such convenience. Visualize that factory process, allow yourself to feel awe for the creation of such inventions.

Thank the hard working factory workers who operate that machinery and do quality control.

Think of the drivers or shippers who transported this food all the way to the stores we buy them in. Imagine the long journeys they take, and send them gratitude.

Now imagine yourself at the store where you bought the food. See yourself giving a small smile and nod to the cashier as you check out. Take a moment to give thanks in your mind to the market workers who put these items on the shelves and provided assistance to you. Send gratitude to the friendly cashier who sold it to you. Ponder what it’s like to do all of these jobs. Ponder what their days might be like, what else might they have going on and yet, they showed up and did the work and made it happen.

And now it is here in your hands, passed down through so many people to get to you. Smile to yourself as you reflect on that level of coordination and teamwork.

Perhaps your appreciation practice gets derailed as you think about how some of these processes maybe aren’t that great for the environment. Take a moment to validate the feelings that thought evokes within you, it is a reasonable and considerate thought, and gently return your focus back to appreciation for the hard work it took to get here.

Alternately, maybe you grew the food that lies in front of you yourself or know someone who did in their garden. Thank that person or thank yourself. What a special moment to consume food that you grew yourself or that was grown or prepared by a loved one. Feel the love that naturally gets infused into that food, which you now get to take in.

Now take a moment to be in awe of your own body- your tongue that can taste, your teeth that can chew, your digestive system that breaks food down to give you energy. Notice any thoughts about your body, or about eating that may come up. Take a moment to acknowledge that those thoughts are present, and remind yourself that they’re ok to have. Just notice. Do not judge. We don’t need to do anything right now with those thoughts, just to simply, gently return to that sense of awe as we reflect on the body and our ability to digest.

It truly is amazing how it all works.

Now with all your being, infuse that food with a loving intention of gratitude and appreciation. Imagine smiling on the inside and then let yourself smile for real. Send all your good energy into the food, imagine it flowing in through your hands, then surrounding the food. See if you can really feel it for a moment. Imagine that love and appreciation glows out from the food like a ball of light, a ball of good energy.

If you have an additional tradition of blessing your food, feel free to do so now.

And now it’s time to chow down, but slowly and with awareness and intention…

Mindfulness practices: Mindful eating with Gratitude- USING THE FIVE SENSES
Take a few deep breaths and allow your attention to rest on the food in front of you. Notice what you see. Look with curiosity and interest, as if seeing for the first time. Observe the food’s shape, color, size, texture. What distinguishes this food from the next? This piece from the rest? Also notice, with a gentle curiosity, the thoughts or feelings that arise as you look.

Now pick up the food and hold it in your hand and notice its weight. Lightly stroke or roll it between your fingers to explore the smoothness or roughness and ridges, the unique pattern of texture. Gently squish the food to feel its density- does it hold it’s structure, condense to become smaller, or fluff back up? Notice if thoughts or feelings arise as you feel the food, just being aware of what comes up without needing to do anything with it. Simply breathe and bring your attention back to the food.

Bring the food up to your nose and smell it, allowing your complete focus to be on this scent. What sensations or feelings does the smell elicit in your body? What thoughts or memories does the smell evoke in your mind? Again, noticing with a gentle curiosity, without judgment, whatever is occurring for you at this moment. You may notice your mouth start to become moist, saliva glands tense, or your stomach gurgle in anticipation of eating.

Now, place the food in your mouth but do not swallow just yet. Notice how the texture and temperature feels on your tongue. Roll it around your mouth to see how it interacts with different parts of your mouth- your tongue, the roof of your mouth, your cheeks, your teeth. Notice the flavors. Notice if the texture shifts as the food moves around. Allow any thoughts or feelings to arise and pass, observing them with gentle curiosity.

Now as you hold the food in your teeth, take one bite and really bring your awareness to the sensations, the sounds- the squish or the crunch. Notice how the food spreads out in your mouth as you bite down. Continue to chew and notice all the muscles in your face, your jaw, and neck that are involved in chewing. Notice the depth of flavors that arise as you chew.

When you’re ready, swallow. Bring your attention to your throat as you feel the food slide down towards your stomach. Can you feel it traveling inside of you? Notice any flavors that linger in your mouth. Allow any thoughts about this process to flow in and out of your awareness. Bring attention to your body as a whole. Notice the sensation of breath once again. Allow yourself to be here in this moment.

Mindfulness practices: Mindful eating with Gratitude- REFLECTION AND INTENTION SETTING
How did that exercise feel? What did you resonate with? What did you notice about the food? About yourself? What surprised you? What felt easy? What felt hard? What felt enjoyable or unpleasant? What parts would you want to try again? What could be the benefit of mindful and grateful eating for you and how could you incorporate it into your life?

If this practice of mindful eating with gratitude resonated with you or you want to explore this or similar mindfulness practices on a deeper level, please call 267-428-2615 to set up an appointment for individual therapy, couples work, or inquire about our weekly Mindfulness Skills support group.

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