You may have heard of a relatively new idea in the world of wellness called mindful eating. And you may have scoffed at it!
With our always-on world, the society-fueled drive to accomplish more, family duties, and just the pressures of work, multi-tasking seems to be a way of life.
And what’s one of the easiest things to multi-task? Eating!
But in case you haven’t got the message, here’s the newsflash: multitasking doesn’t work. Seriously.
I mean I built a whole program on Focus, and I can tell you, the science is definitely on my side.
Aside from creating neuropathways affirming our inclination towards impulse activation and sensory addiction, multi-tasking just takes away the pleasure we experience from doing one thing at a time.
Even when we’re talking about eating.
So a quick question. Think about the last thing you ate. What do you remember about it? Did you take the time to enjoy it —like really enjoy it? Or were you multi-tasking and thinking about your endless to-do list or some other thing?
If you’re finding yourself sheepishly admitting that you were not focused on your meal, well, you’re not alone.
But what would happen if you did? If you practiced mindfulness while eating and savored your food. What if you were to focus on appreciating that which fuels your physical body, giving it a greater sense of reverence and, because of that, a higher level of joy?
When we practice mindful eating it allows us the opportunity to appreciate the quality of our feed, rather than just the quantity of it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll eat less, but it does mean that you’ll better appreciate what you put into your mouth so that it’s not just eating to eat.
When you practice this way, you’ll notice that the first few bites of food you ingest are a lot more satisfying than the last ones. That is because of our taste buds—they are chemical receptors, but they fatigue quickly. You may also find yourself eating a bit less because you’ll be more cued in to your feelings of satisfaction, rather than wolfing down an entire plate of whatever and feeling unsatisfied.
If you’re interested in learning more about eating mindfully, you may want to check out the MB-EAT program, or a great new book, Mastering Mindful Eating, by Michelle Babb. Both are excellent resources!
For now, I want to take things down to a micro level. Ok, maybe more to the size of a raisin.
This exercise I want to invite you to try is called “Three Minute Raisin”. You may have heard of it, maybe even tried it.
Regardless, I want for you to give it a fresh try today.
Grab yourself a raisin (you can also use another snack of your choice, such as an apple or celery stalk.
Before you shove that snack into your mouth, take a pause. Notice how it feels in your hand. Notice it’s weight. Feel its mass as you hold it in your hand compared to your other empty hand.
Now, take the time to gaze at your snack. Do it with admiration and appreciation as though you’ve never seen anything like it before. View it with childlike curiosity and wonder. Notice the colors, the spots where the light darkens the object, the folds, the asymmetries, or any other unique features you may not have noticed at first.
Now, I’d like you to focus on touch. Since the object is already in your hand, begin to turn it between your fingers, exploring how it feels in your hand textually. If it feels comfortable, you might experiment with closing your eyes and noticing how that changes and enhances the sensations.
When you’re ready, draw the object beneath your nostrils and inhale. Invite your nose to observe any fragrance, without judgement or the need to identify it. As you take in the smell, do you notice any sensation in your mouth or stomach?
Now, slower than you think is necessary, draw the object to your lips. Notice the weight of the object in your hand as you draw the object to your lips. Gently take the snack into your mouth and notice its weight and shape. When you’ve found yourself salivating and are ready, consciously take one bite.
Notice what happens in your mouth. Notice the array of flavors that emanate from it as you chew. Don’t swallow yet, but just notice the sensations of flavor and texture on the tongue and in the mouth and how they may change over time. How does it change moment by moment and breath by breath. Remember you are still breathing!
When you feel satisfied with your sensory experience and are ready to swallow, pause. See if you can observe the space between your intention to swallow, and you actually swallowing.
From here, taking it one more sensitizing step, if you can, feel the reminder of the snack moving into your stomach. Note how your body and mind feel now as you finish this practice in contract to when you began.
I realize that MAY have been a bit longer of an experience than you’re accustomed to when taking a bite of a snack. But can you bring a bit more of this sort of mindful eating into your mealtimes? Perhaps you can permit yourself to chew a good 20-30 times before you swallow. Perhaps you can practice taking an extra moment to appreciate the beauty of the meal that you or someone else has prepared! Maybe you can learn to take an extra moment or two to revel in the aromas of fresh herbs, newly plucked vegetables, or warming spices.
Not every meal needs to be a ritual, but see if you can spend a week experimenting with this idea. The more you can embrace this concept of mindful eating, the more you will enjoy your food, transform your relationship with it, and open the door to a more mindful existence overall.