A GUIDE TO MINDFUL EATING by Nutritional Therapist Eve Kalinik
You may have heard about the concept of mindful eating and, although it might sound novel, it isn’t something new. It is just something that has become forgotten in the face of a busy modern lifestyle where our brain is distracted in so many ways. However, learning to eat more mindfully can have myriad positive benefits for our overall nutrition, digestive health, helping to alleviate stress, and cultivating a better relationship with our food and eating patterns.
Mindful eating isn’t simply the act of slowing down and chewing thoroughly, although that’s certainly part of it. It is really about focusing on engaging with all of our senses when choosing which foods to eat, and during the process of eating, imposing no judgement on what we do, or don’t, like to eat and reminding ourselves that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods and knowing that everything is available to us. Moreover, being more sensitive to the physical sensations of hunger and satiety because this helps to support a better overall relationship with how and what we are eating and tuning into what truly nourishes us on many levels. Essentially it is learning how to be more present and engaged with our food and eating behaviours.
So how can we eat more mindfully?
Starting with the moment you think you feel hungry, take a moment to pause and tune into what you really need, and if indeed you need it at that moment, with no judgement. Listen to what your body is telling you it wants to eat, rather than grabbing something without any thought.
When you decide that you are going to eat, evaluate all your options and realise that the choice is entirely yours, without trying to change or judge your thoughts; this might mean going for broccoli one time or having some chocolate at another moment.
Now start to involve all the other senses as you prepare to eat your food. Even before you begin eating, notice the shape and colours of the foods on the plate in front of you, and, as you take each bite, tune into the texture, taste, aroma and sounds around you. Focusing our attention in this way helps us to get the most nourishment and enjoyment out of our food.
Once you have finished, tune into the true feeling of being pleasantly satiated and to allow the process of rest and digest to process, taking a moment to appreciate the meal that you have just eaten.
If it is not something you are familiar with, you might find the practise of mindful eating a bit strange, maybe even uncomfortable, to start with as typically we are used to being otherwise distracted so it might take a little while to get used to being more present at meal times. However, once you get into the habit of this it will just become second nature and you will notice a much deeper connection, appreciation and enjoyment of your food.
To help get you fully into the zone, I would also suggest practising a specific mindful eating exercise. Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn is largely credited for bringing the concept of mindful eating into popular consciousness and created his mindful eating exercise otherwise known as raisin meditation. There have been many variations on this including using chocolate. I think that’s because chocolate invokes so many emotions and we want to dive in immediately so I’m suggesting you use this when you try the exercise for yourself.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to this below and you can also watch my video tutorial on this for Lizi’s too…
- Holding, seeing and touching: Firstly take the piece of chocolate in your hand and really look at it. How does it look? How does it feel in your hand?
- Smelling: hold the chocolate close to your nose and really take in its aroma. Does it invoke other senses? Does the smell alone stimulate your appetite?
- Placing: Place the chocolate on your tongue and just hold it there. Allow your mouth to feel the chocolate without chewing. How does this feel? Do you instinctively just want to eat it?
- Tasting: Place the chocolate between your teeth and bite. Notice the texture and the flavours as they release. Pause after a few bites and note the texture and flavours again. Continue chewing and noticing.
- Swallowing: Note the intention to ingest and the position of your mouth and then finally swallow the chocolate.
How do you feel afterwards? It can be pretty incredible as to how satisfying just one piece of chocolate can be when we eat it more mindfully!
This is an exercise that you can repeat whenever you want to help bring your food choices and meal times back into a more mindful, present and enjoyable experience.