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Savor Your Food with Mindful Eating

June 24, 2021

By Duke Health & Well-Being Programs Team

How many of us have had the experience of eating an entire bag of chips or a pint of ice cream without even realizing it? When this happens, most (if not all) of us notice and appreciate the full taste of our first few bites, but can hardly remember the rest. Mindless eating can happen when we are simultaneously doing other activities such as working, driving, watching television or talking on the telephone. Eating becomes a secondary, almost less important, experience rather than the enjoyable and nurturing one that it should be.

Mindful eating allows us to savor our foods and have a full sensory experience with every meal. It encourages us to take time when eating to enjoy each and every bite and how the foods make us feel. Mindful eating also promotes taking a pause when choosing foods so that we are more likely to make choices that are nurturing and healthy for us. Not only is it a practice of listening to our bodies , noticing what it needs or does not need in the moment, but it tunes us into the joy of eating –the tastes, smells, textures and activation of pleasure centers in the brain.

IMPACT and SUPPORT

Mindful eating has been shown  to reduce binge eating, emotional eating and the eating of sweets 7,9,10,51. On a physiological level, mindful eating has been associated with lower fasting glucose levels. 51 Slowing down when eating also allows for  increased enjoyment of foods, improved digestion, optimal nutrient absorption and signaling of satiety (or fullness).52-55

PRACTICE CONSIDERATIONS

If you do not have raisins for this exercise, or do not want to eat raisins, any food will do. Other foods to consider include baby carrots, Hershey kisses, or apple slices.

SCRIPT

  1. First take a raisin and hold it between your pointer finger and thumb. Bring your attention to the raisin as if it were a novel item, imagining that you have never seen one before in your life. (PAUSE)
  2. Take the time to observe the raisin carefully – really see it – gaze at it with care and full attention. Let your eyes explore every part of it, noticing its shape, colors and surfaces. Examine its grooves, where the light shines and shadows. (PAUSE) 
  3. Rotate and move the raisin between your fingers, continuing to explore its texture. Apply a small bit of pressure to notice whether it is soft or hard. You might close your eyes if that helps you to focus and enhance your sense of touch. (PAUSE)
  4. In now recognizing this is a raisin, note any thoughts you might have about raisins – any memories around them or feelings of liking or disliking them. (PAUSE)
  5. Hold the raisin under your nose, and inhale naturally. With each in-breath, notice any aroma or smell that arises. Bring awareness also to any effect in your mouth or stomach. (PAUSE)
  6. Now bring the raisin slowly up to your mouth, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Also being aware if you are salivating as the mind and body anticipate eating. (PAUSE)
  7. Place the raisin gently into your mouth, without yet chewing. Hold the raisin in your mouth for at least 10 seconds, exploring it with your tongue, feeling the sensations of having it  there. Notice this pause and how it feels to take some time before eating the raisin. (PAUSE)
  8. When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin. Take one or two bites into it and notice what happens, bringing  your full attention its taste and texture as you continue chewing. (PAUSE)
  9. Take time to chew without swallowing, noticing the taste and texture of the raisin in your mouth and how they may change over time. (PAUSE)
  10. When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, bring awareness to the sensation so that even this is experienced consciously. (PAUSE)
  11. Lastly, notice what is left of the raisin as you swallow and it travels down to your stomach. Notice how your body as a whole is feeling after completing this exercise.

DEBRIEF

Take a few moments to write down your reflections on the following questions

  • How was this experience the same or different from how you normally eat?
  • What, if anything, surprised you about the experience?
  • What did you notice with the raisin (or whatever food) in terms of sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste?
  • What thoughts or memories popped up while doing this practice? 
  • What is one tip for yourself that you are going to take from this experience to apply to your eating habits in the future?

DAILY PRACTICE

  • Many people find it helpful to start out with a particular mealtime when practicing mindful eating. You might choose a specific location to eat, such as the dining table or the lunchroom at work. Maybe choose a favorite plate or bowl that is just the right size for the serving you want to eat. Eat without distraction, television off and  cell phone placed out of reach, giving your full attention to the sensory experience of your meal
  • Put your fork or spoon down between each bite so that you can fully appreciate each mouthful. You can also try switching up how you eat. 
  • If you generally eat with customary utensils, try using chopsticks instead. Take smaller portions, eat more slowly and look at your food more closely. The preparation of food in itself, washing and cutting vegetables, serves to keep us present in the moment, detach from distractions and feel greater joy in the food we eat.

MIND-BODY TOOLKIT | CULTIVATING RESILIENCY |  Copyright © 2017 Duke Integrative Medicine

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