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Mindfulness and Hunger

So far in the Eating with Intention series, we have looked at different eating styles and learned how to assess your current level of mindfulness when eating. We have also looked at how mindfulness can help us to differentiate true hunger from emotional eating. In this installment, we are going to start looking at ways we can actually apply an attitude of intentionality to eating.

How to eat mindfully

Now that we understand some of the benefits of being more mindful with food, you may be wondering how you can actually put the theory into practice. Remember, mindfulness simply means paying close attention to what is happening in the present moment without judgement. When applied to food, we devote all our senses to becoming curious about what we are eating and noticing all the physical and emotional changes that take place within us as we more from hunger to satiety.

Most of us tend to eat quickly and often distract ourselves with other things, such as conversation, television or daydreaming. This leaves the door wide open for over-eating as we are also distracting ourselves from our body's feedback. Along with over-eating comes regret, shame and often physical difficulties such as bloating and heartburn.

Remember, an essential element of mindfulness is replacing judgement with curiosity. Whatever you eat is neither good nor bad, it is just an experience to be noticed and enjoyed.

In order to help you slow down and notice what is going down, try one or two of these adaptations with each meal:

  1. Eat without any distractions (i.e. no cell phones, TV, radio, etc)

  2. Eat with your nondominant hand

  3. Use a fork and knife to eat something you usually eat with your hands (i.e., a sandwich or wrap)

  4. Eat with a different utensil, such as eating soup with a fork or a straw (be safe with knives!)

  5. Putting your eating utensil down between bites

  6. Chew each bite at least 20 times before swallowing

  7. Eat dessert before your main course

  8. Plate your meal beforehand (if you normally serve your meals family-style)

  9. Serve your meal family-style (if you normally plate your meal before sitting at the table)

  10. Do not finish all the food on your plate

The Raisin Meditation

The Raisin Meditation is a simple exercise that will help you learn to slow down and notice everything that your food has to offer. It brings to bear all five senses to get the most out of a small morsel of food. All you will need for this exercise is two raisins and a glass of water.

  1. Begin by taking a small sip of water to clear your palette. Pick up one of the raisins. Examine it closely, as though you’ve never seen a raisin before. Notice its shape, its colour, its texture, and its weight in your hand. How many different colours and tones can you identify? Is it uniform or does it have wrinkles and folds? How does the light reflect on it?

  2. Next, close your eyes and explore the raisin through touch. What does it feel like? Is it hard, soft, smooth, or rough? Roll it between your fingers and note how it becomes more maleable as it warms up. As you continue to roll the raisin, hold it to your ear and consider whether you can identify any sounds, such as the gentle fracturing of the fruit's fibres.

  3. Bring the raisin to your nose and take a deep breath in. What do you smell? Is it sweet, fruity, nutty, or does it have some other scent? This is a practice of olfactory mindfulness, fostering an appreciation for the sense of smell. It's possible that you won't smell anything at all, and so note the absence with as much interest as if a scent was present.

  4. Now, place the raisin on your tongue but don't bite into it yet. Notice how your mouth responds. Is there an increase in saliva? What is the urge to chew like? Notice these responses without judgment. When you're ready, bite gently into the raisin and notice the flavors that are released. Can you identify more than one taste and does it change as you hold the raisin in your mouth? Slowly begin to chew it. Notice the texture in your mouth and how it changes. Taste it as if it's the first time you've ever tasted a raisin. What flavours can you detect now? Is it sweet, sour, or something else?

  5. Swallow the raisin when you're ready, noticing the sensation of swallowing and the feeling of emptiness in your mouth. Reflect on the journey the raisin took from a vine in the sun to a store, to your kitchen, and now to your body. Take another small sip of water, then repeat the exercise, noticing any differences in your experience and noticing, without judgement, when your attention drifts, before gently bringing it back to the task at hand.

The Raisin Meditation encourages you to savor and appreciate your food. This mindful eating exercise can not only transform your relationship with food, making each bite more satisfying and enjoyable, but it can also spill over into other areas of your life, enhancing overall awareness and presence.

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