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 simultaneously do 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 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 nurturing and healthy choices. Not only is it a practice of listening to our bodies, noticing what it needs or does not need at 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 eating sweets. On a physiological level, mindful eating has been associated with lower fasting glucose levels. 51 Slowing down when eating also increases food enjoyment, improved digestion, optimal nutrient absorption, and signaling of satiety (or fullness).
Any food will do if you do not have raisins for this exercise or do not want to eat raisins; other foods include baby carrots, Hershey kisses, or apple slices.
- 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)
- 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)
- Rotate 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)
- Now recognizing this is a raisin, note any thoughts you might have about raisins – any memories or feelings of liking or disliking them. (PAUSE)
- 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)
- Now bring the raisin slowly up to your mouth, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Also, be aware of salivating as the mind and body anticipate eating. (PAUSE)
- 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)
- When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin. Take one or two bites into it and notice what happens, bringing your full attention to its taste and texture as you continue chewing. (PAUSE)
- 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)
- When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, bring awareness to the sensation so that even this is experienced consciously. (PAUSE)
- 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.
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) regarding sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste?
- What thoughts or memories popped up while doing this practice?
- What is one tip for yourself that you will take from this experience to apply to your eating habits in the future?
- Many people find it helpful to start 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 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 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. Preparing food in itself, washing and cutting vegetables, keeps us present in the moment, detach from distractions, and feels greater joy in the food we eat.
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