Mindful Eating Exercise
Mindfulness, along with yoga, meditation, and other techniques designed to slow up the modern lifestream are taking the world by storm. And this is a rare case when something remarkably popular is truly worth the hype. Mindful eating, in particular, may help you finally take control of your eating patterns, ease the weight loss process, and yield a plethora of other health benefits. But sometimes the descriptions are quite vague, and after scrolling through a bunch of articles you might still wonder what mindful eating means in practice. This article provides you with mindful eating exercise used in specialized courses dedicated to this approach. As it often happens, it is not that difficult to do it at home and save your wallet from taking a beating.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is based on mindfulness – a Buddhist concept.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that helps you recognize and cope with emotions and physical sensations you get during your daily activities. Essentially it is a basic human ability to be fully present in the time and space you’re in. It is about being fully aware of where you are, what’s happening, and what is your role in it, while not being distressed and frazzled by the events unfolding here and now.
It is something innate to a human being, you just need to find the keys to unlock this ability in yourself. There are various techniques for cultivating mindfulness, yoga and meditation are among them.
One specific practice that has to do with mindfulness is mindful eating – an approach to let you successfully handle and process mental and physical cues during the meal. It involves nurturing your sensitivity to hunger cues, enriching your perception of flavors and textures, and regaining control over your eating patterns (10, 6, 12).
Mindful eating is used as a treatment for a wide spectrum of health conditions including food-related behaviors like binge eating and emotional eating, as well as anxiety and depression (8, 7, 5). It was also proven to be notably helpful in weight loss (9, 11, 3).
Read More: Sound Meditation: The Healing Power Of Sound
In essence, mindful eating exercise involves:
- Slowing down the pace at which you eat. For instance, you can take breaks during bites, or chew more slowly.
- Noting how your body tells you it’s hungry and full, and learning to properly recognize these signals.
- Learning to distinguish real hunger cues and fake triggers of eating, such as eating out of boredom.
- Choosing food that is both pleasing and nourishing by using all of your senses (smell, taste, sight, sound) while consuming it.
- Learning to tackle guilt and anxiety related to food.
- Paying attention to the effects of food on your mood, figure, and emotions.
- Admiring the delicious foods you consume.
If you wish to reach into the deep crevices of your mind, take yourself out of the mental loop, regain balance, infuse yourself with optimism, and cultivate compassion – BetterMe: Meditation & Sleep app is exactly what you need!
Mindful eating exercise
There are a couple of mindful eating exercises involving various foods, from raisins to chocolates or apples. Yet structurally they are very similar. Consider this mindful eating script developed by an expert from VHA Office of Patient-Centered Care & Cultural Transformation (2). Practicing professional exercises will require some time. If you’re looking for tips more suitable for daily rush, read further.
Start by connecting to your breath and body, feel your feet on the ground and notice your experience of the moment. With your awareness in this moment, notice any thoughts, sensations or emotions you are experiencing right now, and make a pause.
Now, tune into the awareness or sensation that you have in your body. Maybe you feel hungry, thirsty, or even full? If you were planning to eat or drink something right now, what is your body hungry for? What is it thirsty for? Just pay attention and notice with awareness the sensations that give you this information.
Mindful eating exercise: phase 2
Take a pause, and bring your attention to the food item in your hand and imagine that you are seeing it for the first time. Observe with curiosity as you concentrate on color, shape, texture, and size. Is there anything else that you notice, sense or feel?
Now, imagine what it took for this food item to get to your hands: sunshine, water, time, processing, and shipping. You may choose to be aware of gratitude for everyone who takes part in the cultivation and preparation of this food. You may choose to bring in your own gratitude or spiritual blessing.
Mindful eating exercise: phase 3
Take a pause, and place the food between your fingers and feel the texture, temperature and ridges. You may notice smoothness or stickiness. Again, notice if you have any thoughts, sensations or emotions right now. Continue to breathe and be fully present in this moment.
Now, take the piece of food and bring it toward your nose and smell with your full awareness. Notice if you have any memories, sensations or reactions in your body connected to the smell. Even before you eat it, you may notice that you begin to feel a digestive response in your body just by noticing and smelling.
Mindful eating exercise: phase 4
With full awareness of your hand moving toward your mouth, place the food into your mouth without chewing or swallowing it. Simply allow it to be in your mouth, roll it around to different parts of your mouth and tongue. Pay attention to the flavor and texture, as well as physical sensations within your body, especially your mouth and your gut. Continue to breathe as you explore the sensation of having this item in your mouth.
Now, take only one bite and notice the flavor, as well as the change of texture. Then very slowly begin chewing this piece of food, and think about the parts of your mouth that are involved in chewing. Feel the sound and movement of chewing, as you continue experiencing the sensations and flavor.
When you are ready, swallow this food and notice the path that it follows from your mouth and throat into your stomach. Notice the sensation and taste that may linger in your mouth. Connect again to your body and your breath and feel through your experience of the moment.
The Two Plate Approach: steps 1-4
The two plate approach, which was suggested by a dietitian Megrette Fletcher and Frederick Burggraf in their book Discover Mindful Eating: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using 51 Mindful Eating Activities with Your Clients, (4) is claimed to be the best to use when you’re not able to control how much food is served to you on a plate. Most of the time when you resort to this approach, you will be at a restaurant, but you can also practice at a buffet, putting food on one plate and then carrying a second plate back to the table with you. This method makes potential stopping points by using two plates instead of one. The space between the two plates creates the space where, in a sense, the mindfulness of the two plate approach is located.
- Begin with a plate of food. Before you start cutting up the food, set your plate back away from you on the table and get another plate. This second plate can be the same size as the first plate, but try to experiment with what happens when the second plate is actually smaller. Your original plate (the one with the food on it) is now your Serving Plate, and the new plate is your Eating Plate.
- From your Serving Plate, take some bits of each food and place it on your Eating Plate. Exactly how much to take you’ll have to decide, but trust yourself to put a portion on the plate that simply makes sense to you. Remember, this is not to limit the amount of food you can eat.
- Slice the food on your Eating Plate into bite-sized pieces.
- Eat the food on your Eating Plate as mindfully as you can, realizing that if you are surrounded by friends, the experience will be different than when you’re at home alone. And it’s ok, that’s why the two plate approach is used in the first place.
The Two Plate Approach: steps 5-8
- When you finish the food on the Eating Plate, it is time to practice mindfulness more strongly. Pause and evaluate. Shift your mind for a moment or two into the body, investigating and experiencing how you feel. You don’t have to be weird about this and tell everyone at the table to hush up while you go deep down into your body, simply pause, and think. A great cover for doing this is the process of taking a drink. You can hold the glass up to your mouth as though you’re clearing your mouth for a sip, and take that opportunity to ask yourself the questions, “Am I full? Do I really need more?”. If you decide you do need more, move on to the next step. If you are full and done, ask your waiter for a to-go container.
- Bring half of the remaining food from the Serving Plate onto your Eating Plate. Cut this food up and eat it.
- When this food is done, repeat Step 5. Making intentional choices right in the moments when the choice to stop is still an option, and finding the space to frequently ask yourself whether you’ve had enough, and whether you need more is really important.
- If the answer is yes, repeat Steps 6 and 7.
Something tells us you often forget to put all the everyday hustle and bustle on hold and simply concentrate on yourself. It’s time to straighten out your priorities! Take a moment to heal, process your emotions, ground yourself, release all the pent-up tension and recharge with the BetterMe: Meditation & Sleep app before getting back into the race of life!
Tips for mindful eating
If contemplating about a piece of food for 10 minutes feels like too much, you can still make your daily food consumption more mindful following these tips (1).
How to slow down
Because our brain takes about 20 minutes to register fullness, many of us overeat. Slowing down lets your body catch up to your mind. Sitting down at the table to eat instead of inhaling your food, chewing each bite many times, or putting your fork down between bites is a great start.
Randomness vs system
Planning your meals ahead might prevent you from developing toxic habits like eating a carb-heavy snack to quell your hunger pangs during lunchtime. You can also organize your kitchen according to the principle of mindful eating. For instance, you can consider the location of various foods, and detect which ones are available at hand, and which are lost in the darkness of the cabinets.
No more multitasking
You should stop scrolling through Facebook feed or Instagram photos of your friends while having a meal. That’s it, plain and simple. Remember going to the cinema and wondering about the magical disappearance of your big popcorn bag? This is the exact opposite of mindful eating – consuming food while you’re not even paying attention to what you’re doing. Being distracted during the meal is a direct road to overeating.
To sum up, mindful eating exercise is a great tactic for regaining control over your eating patterns, as well as enhancing your sensitivity to flavors and textures of foods, thus improving the overall sense of enjoyment from consuming a meal. It forms a perfect combination with a nutritious diet for a steady and healthy weight loss. While some of the mindful eating exercises are time-demanding, practicing them at home on a daily basis is still possible even if you work at the office for 8 hours per day. What you need here is just a bit of time management skills and dedication.
Take a deep breath and watch this meditation video to tap into that boundless peace within you.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 6 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating (2019, mindful.org)
- A Mindful Eating Script (n.d., projects.hsl.wisc.edu)
- An Acceptance-Based Behavioral Intervention for Weight Loss: A Pilot Study (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Discover Mindful Eating: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using 51 Mindful Eating Activities with Your Clients by Megrette Fletcher and Frederick Burggraf (2015., megrette.com)
- Evidence and Potential Mechanisms for Mindfulness Practices and Energy Psychology for Obesity and Binge-Eating Disorder (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Is Mindfulness Buddhist? (And Why It Matters) (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mind-Body Practice and Body Weight Status in a Large Population-Based Sample of Adults (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Health Benefits. A Meta-Analysis (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat Among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mindfulness Moderates the Relationship Between Disordered Eating Cognitions and Disordered Eating Behaviors in a Non-Clinical College Sample (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pilot Study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, Eating Behavior, and Psychological Outcomes Associated With a Mindfulness-Based Intervention for People With Obesity (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Role of Mindfulness Based Interventions in the Treatment of Obesity and Eating Disorders: An Integrative Review (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)