From ‘Psychology Today’ by Jan Chozen
How is it that food and eating have become such a common source of unhappiness? And why has it occurred in a country with an abundance of food? The fundamental reason for our imbalance with food and eating is that we’ve forgotten how to be present as we eat. We eat mindlessly…
The problem lies in the mind. It lies in our lack of awareness of the messages coming in from our body, from our very cells and from our heart. Mindful eating helps us learn to hear what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. It helps us become aware of who in the body/heart/mind complex is hungry, and how and what is best to nourish it. Mindful eating is natural, interesting, fun, and cheap.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colours, smells, textures, flavours, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. We pay attention to the experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full?
We also pay attention to the mind. While avoiding judgement or criticism, we watch when the mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what we are eating or drinking. We watch the impulses that arise after we’ve taken a few sips or bites: to grab a book, to turn on the TV, to call someone on our cell phone, or to do web search on some interesting subject. We notice the impulse and return to just eating.
We notice how eating affects our mood and how our emotions like anxiety influence our eating. Gradually we regain the sense of ease and freedom with eating that we had in childhood. It is our natural birthright.
The old habits of eating and not paying attention are not easy to change. Don’t try to make drastic changes. Lasting change takes time, and is built on many small changes. We start simply.
Pick your mindful eating homework
(1) Try taking the first four sips of a cup of hot tea or coffee with full attention.
(2) If you are reading and eating, try alternating these activities, not doing both at once. Read a page, then put the book down and eat a few bites, savoring the tastes, then read another page, and so on.
(3) At family meals, you might ask everyone to eat in silence for the first five minutes, thinking about the many people who brought the food to your plates.
(4) Try eating one meal a week mindfully, alone and in silence. Be creative. For example, could you eat lunch behind a closed office door, or even alone in your car?
Enjoy your meal!