The 12 mindful eating exercises outlined in this blog post can help you to become more mindful when enjoying your meals. Whether you are new to eating mindfully or just starting out these 12 mindful eating practices can help you become a more mindful eater.
Do you often look at your empty plate and wonder where the hell the food went? There have been times when I’ve finished a meal so quickly that if you asked me what my food tasted like I couldn’t tell you. Sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve also found yourself mindlessly munching on a couple of occasions.
Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Even to this day I struggle to eat mindfully at every single meal. When it comes to mindful eating you will realize that it’s not something you can just do right off the bat. It takes time, patience and a willingness to learn how to become more aware while eating.
I get frustrated at myself for getting lost in my meal or allowing myself to eat when I’m not really hungry. When I start slipping up to much I remember these 12 mindful eating exercises and get myself back in the game so that I can continue enjoying all the mindful eating benefits.
What Is Mindful Eating?
A simple mindful eating definition: Mindful eating is the practice of bringing your full attention to what you are eating and how you are eating. You engage all your senses and become fully present when eating mindfully.
How Do I Start Eating Mindfully?
To start practicing mindful eating all you need to do is follow the below list. Here are 12 ways in which you can start practicing mindful eating at your next meal.
1. Make your meal an event
When it comes to your meal, you make it important. Sit down without distractions and allow yourself to be fully focused on what is about to happen. No phone, no T.V, no computer just you and your delicious food. If you do this you can eat and only eat.
2. Eat when hungry, not stressed
Mindlessly chewing on a pretzel? Running to the fridge every 10 minutes? You might be stressed. When I’m stressed I find that I can easily turn to food for self soothing even when I’m not hungry. If you can identify that you are stressed out, you might want to find a different way of dealing with it, other than stuffing your face.
Deep breaths usually do the trick for me and when that doesn’t help I go for a brisk and meaningful walk with my dog. If you don’t have a dog, you’re going to have to go it alone.
3. Food is my best friend and I value my friends
Don’t only appreciate the taste of your food, go deeper. Appreciate the effort that has gone into growing and preparing your meal. Think about the distance your food has traveled to get to you and how many people were involved in creating your plate. Enjoy every bite with gratitude and love.
4. Take mindful bites and eat slowly
Take extra time to eat your meal, value each bite and chew slowly. I always try to remember to put my fork down between bites so that I can prolong my experience. Aim to make your meal last 15-20 minutes, as you get better at taking mindful bites and eating mindfully this will become easier and easier.
5. Bring your awareness back to the taste, smell and textures
I love this tip because I treat it like a game. With every bite I try and discover something new about the food I’m eating. A new texture,smell or taste that I haven’t picked up on before. Being mindful of every bite will help you build a more intimate relationship with your food.
6. Be mindful of your portion size
Have you heard the saying dish with your eyes not your stomach? Im sure you have, within the core of that statement lies mindfulness. Always think twice about the amount of food you are dishing. As a rule of thumb I always dish much less than I think I need for my hunger level. Id rather dish to little and go back for seconds.
7. How hungry are you?
Be mindful of how hungry you really are. Often I will see or smell something delicious and immediately want to eat. I have to stop and think for a moment. Am I really hungry or is the sight and smell of food only enticing me to think that I am.
8. Keep yourself satisfied
Be sure to eat before you get too hungry. When we are ravenous we usually throw caution to the wind when it comes to food. It’s much more difficult to eat mindfully when we are starving.
9. Be mindful of your protein
Protein keeps us full for longer so make sure that you are getting enough good protein in your meals. Staying full for longer will allow you to be more in control of your hunger and being more in control of your hunger will help you to make better decisions later on.
10. Calorie budgeting
Be aware of your calorie budget, know what you are allowed to consume in a day and remember what you’ve eaten. I keep a food journal to help me stay on track with my calorie budget.
If you journal what you’re eating you might be surprised at the amount and contents of your diet. Having the hard data to look at will help you be more mindful with your future decisions.
11. Food makes me happy, but is it always worth it?
Cake, candy or salad? Is the food you are about to eat worthy of you? Think about what you are about to put into your mouth before you do it. Ask yourself, is this bite worth the calories.
Asking yourself this question before you eat is a fantastic way to bring yourself into the present moment so that you can make a more mindful decision.
12. One mindful bite at a time
Sometimes I like to eat cake, its one of my pleasures. When I do eat cake I always practice the one mindful bite rule. I use all of the above strategies and allow myself to enjoy my cake one bite at a time. Most of the time I wont even finish the slice and find I’ve only had 2 or 3 bites. Try it the next time you want to indulge on something you love.
Mindful Eating Script
The Raisin Exercise
If you’ve never tried eating mindfully and have no idea where to start, this mindful eating script is for you. The raisin exercise, is the first thing you learn when studying mindfulness. Not only does it teach the basics of mindfulness but it will practically show you how to eat more mindfully.
The raisin exercise only needs to be practiced once
But you can do it as many times as you wish. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes when you can be alone and undisturbed. You will need a few raisins (feel free to use other small dried fruit or nuts).
- HOLDING: Take one of the raisins and hold it in your hand or between your finger and thumb. Can you feel the weight of it in your hand?
- SEEING: Focus on the fruit and look at it like you’ve never seen it before. Let your eyes explore every part of it. What do you notice?
- TOUCHING: Play with the raisin between your fingers and explore its texture.
- SMELLING: Hold the raisin under your nose, as you inhale what smells or aromas do you notice.
- PLACING: Slowly put the raisin into your mouth. Without chewing just explore what the raisin feels like on your tongue.
- CHEWING: Consciously take one bite and notice what tastes are released and feel the texture on your teeth.
- SWALLOWING: Before you swallow the raisin notice how your throat and mouth contract as it waits for the raisin to go down. When you swallow the raisin become aware of how it moves down your stomach.
Introduction To Mindful Eating By Michelle Duval
Michelle Duval does an excellent job of explaining our relationship with food and how our relationship with food impacts our behavior around eating. She is a great teacher in the mindfulness space and I have learnt so many valuable lessons from her.
Take it one step at a time
I hope you found value in this article and I hope that you can take away at least one or two of the 12 eating practices and implement them into your daily life. Remember that there’s a reason we call it a mindful practice. You are always practicing and no one is 100% mindful all of the time. We are constantly falling in and out of the present moment, we just have to keep going and practice as much as we can.