Mindful eating is a great way to illustrate how we can be mindful throughout our daily tasks. Often times we eat without actually experiencing our food. This is particularly common when we’re stressed and anxious.

Background

If you’ve read the mindfulness basics handout then this is probably a bit of a repeat. Our goal for this exercise is to focus our attention on the different sensations we experience when we eat. We don’t have to change how we eat, we simple pay attention to what we’re eating.

Food presents a unique opportunity to be present in our experience. Foods have certain smells, tastes and textures associated with them that we can focus our attention on. Just like any other mindfulness exercise you’ll probably notice there are different thoughts and feelings going through your mind. This is expected, our minds are used to being busy.

Often times you may notice that your mind has wandered. That’s normal! Once you notice that you’re distracted just gently re-focus your attention on the physical sensations of eating. This is actually part of the exercise and helps to reinforce the “focussed attention” pathways in your brain.

Instructions

  1. The next time you are going to eat something (a snack, meal or drink) decide to consciously experience your food and drink.
  2. Initially, take a moment to see how you feel. Are there any strong emotions or thoughts going through your mind? Is there a sense of hunger that you feel? If there is, try to rate it on a scale of 1-10.
  3. Prior to taking the first bite notice any smells that may be in the air.
  4. As you take the first bite notice the physical sensations that are present. Is the food soft or crunchy? Is the food hot, warm or cold?
  5. As you chew your food notice the different flavours that begin to appear. Does the food taste the same while you chew it or does the flavour evolve as time goes on?
  6. During this exercise you’ll likely become distracted by thoughts or feelings. Remember that this is expected and an important part of the exercise. As soon as you become distracted gently redirect your attention to sensations you experience while eating.
  7. At the end of your meal take a moment to see how you feel. Have the thoughts and emotions you noticed before the walk changed at all? How would you rate your hunger? Are you over full?
  8. Try to continue the focus that you experienced during your meal in the next activity you do, whatever that may be.

Tips

It’s pretty normal to worry about doing this exercise wrong. If you notice that your mind wanders and begins to worry about doing the exercise “correctly” that’s ok, simply note that you’ve been distracted by your worry and return your attention to you’re breathing.

It’s important to take a moment to notice how you feel after the exercise. You may feel the same as you did before, you may feel more focussed, relaxed or even energized. That’s ok. The point of this exercise is to help us become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and body sensations in the present moment.

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