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A Mindful Eating Exercise

Nancy here, again (are you tired of hearing from me yet?)! With my Whole30 journey complete, you can imagine that I have been thinking a lot about food, but in a vastly different way. Instead of obsessing about what I ate – and all the self-guilt that goes with it – I am learning to refocus my energy onto the act of being present when I eat.

I want to share a technique I found interesting- and it may not be new to you. Not only does this approach help to bring the wandering mind back to the here and now- the present of our plate, it may actually encourage greater enjoyment of our food, increased mindfulness about what we choose to nourish our bodies, and how much food is really needed to satisfy our hunger.

The following is adapted from the well-known “Eating a Raisin, Mindfully” exercise that exists as part of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (M.B.S.R.) training program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2007.  Are you up for a little challenge today? Honestly, it will take less than 5 minutes of your time.

We have adapted the exercise to allow for something…well, more exciting then a raisin, and perhaps a little bit more tongue and cheek (although we appreciate the raisin in its simplicity). How about a chocolate kiss? Or sip of wine? Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter as long as you apply the steps below to experience the journey.

In this exercise, you will be using all five senses, so try not to use something without a scent or difficult to hold…like yogurt, spaghetti, or chicken parmesan. I recommend something small and delicious. Maybe a treat…

Image courtesy of Simply Quinoa

Now clear your mind. Pretend you have no pre-existing ideas about what you are about to eat. Place your selected food in your hand. Begin to explore it; starting with sight, then touch, then scent, sound and then finally taste. Try to spend an uninterrupted 10 – 30 seconds examining your object at each step.

  • See the food like you have never before. Turn it in your fingers. What color is it? Is it clear, or opaque? Notice natural dimples, folds or crevices in the surface. How is the sealed/contained? Does it reflect light? In the meantime, don’t think about anything else.
  • Now turn your attention to how it feels. Turn it around in your hand, feel it with your fingers. Is it smooth? Rough? Heavy? Light? Soft? Wet? (we warned you about using the chicken parmesan…) What does it feel like to unwrap it (if required). Still, don’t think about anything else.
  • Now as crazy thoughts begin to arise, like “what if someone walks in on me doing this?” Or “why is that waiter staring at me? Hasn’t he ever seen someone fondle a pork dumpling before?” Let those thoughts come to you, and then dismiss them. Bring your awareness back to the object. Oh, and try not to talk to it… that will get you looks.
  • Take your object beneath your nose, and inhale. Does it have a scent? Is earthy, or subtle? What does it remind you of? A summer’s day? The baseball park? Try to be specific. Inhale deeply. And don’t think about anything else.
  • You have reached the finale. Unwrap your object (if needed) or bring that glass to your lips. Slowly and mindfully, place your treat into your mouth. What do you sense first- sweetness, tart, wet, cool, hot…? Notice your mouth watering as your tongue accepts its invitation to the party. Begin to chew, or swirl (you know who you are) and with full intention, swallow.

See, that wasn’t so bad. Did you notice anything different? Did you actually enjoy the bite, or the sip, even more so than if taken while doing something else…like checking emails, answering texts, driving?  Did you feel mindful?

Now, step back.  Enlarge the scope of your focus. Can you bring this same attention to every meal? Every cocktail hour with friends?

And then, can you bring this same attention and intention to other areas of your life, even if for just 5 minutes at a time?  Try it. The benefits of being mindful and present in our daily activities are vast, but most importantly it lowers stress. We can all do without a little less stress in our lives, couldn’t we?

For more journeys into mindfulness and meditation, check out the fabulous Headspace app or visit headspace.com. This is truly a BE love. Tried this exercise? Share your experience. And if you really want to experience the exercise with a raisin, try that here.