Recently I have been experimenting with giving the food I eat my full attention. It makes sense to me, that if we are going to eat small or moderate portions of food we might as well get the maximum pleasure from them. Here are a few ideas about how to give full attention to food while eating and get maximum enjoyment and satisfaction from the eating experience.
Would you like to be able to eat less food and yet enjoy it as much as if you were eating a larger quantity of food?
If your answer was ‘yes’ you may be interested in eating Mindfully. Eating mindfully includes
- Giving your full attention when you are eating to the food and the eating experience. .
- Noticing how full you are and how much you eat
- Being aware of how situations or emotions influence how you eating
Studies on Mindful eating are limited at this time, but at least one shows that Mindful eating is associated with lower body mass index and some studies show that learning to eat mindfully encourages weight loss. ‘Mindless’ eating (eating while distracted by other things), on the other hand has been shown increase the amount of food we eat.
- Present the food you are going to eat attractively and in a way that makes a smaller amount of food appear larger e.g. slice up an apple and arrange the slices on a plate rather than just eating a whole apple.
- Sit down at the table to eat rather than eating ‘ on the run’
- Spend a moment or two really looking at the food you are going to eat and appreciate it.
- Smell the food you are going to enjoy – some of the pleasure we get from food is from it’s smell.
- Pay full attention to your food – rather than giving your attention to other things like watching TV or reading a book while you eat.
- Now take time to eat the food bite by bite. Don’t start getting the next forkful ready to eat while you are still eating the last – pay attention to the one in your mouth. Be conscious of its flavour and texture.
- As you eat, try and keep your thoughts on your food rather than thinking about things in the past or future. Of course this isn’t easy to do and your mind will wander from time to time – when you notice this happening, just bring your attention back to the food. Remind yourself that there is nothing you can do about those things right now – right now you are eating. If you are scared you will forget something – write it down to come back to once you have finished eating. ( remember it is normal for your mind to wander from time to time – don’t beat yourself for not doing it ‘perfectly’ )
- To help keep your attention on the food you are eating ask yourself ‘ Do I like the taste of this food I am eating ? ‘What do I notice about it ? How hungry am I now? Does the food get less delicious as the meal progresses? Try eating with your non dominant hand or with chopsticks.
- Of course you won’t be able to do this for every meal you eat, but every step towards mindful eating will help. To start with you could just take one step, like turning off the TV while you eat, or allowing a little more time for your meal so that you don’t gulp it down as you head out the door. Other ideas to introduce this into your life are to eat the first 3 bites of every meal mindfully, or to eat just one meal every day, or one meal each week mindfully.
- An interesting experiment to try when you first start to think about eating mindfully is the ‘Raisin Eating Exercise ‘ There are many variations of this around so I will just outline one.
Mindful Eating Raisin Eating Exercise
You are going to use all your senses to make the most out of the experience of eating 3 raisins.
What is needed: 3 raisins, and a quiet time and place.
- Place the three raisins on a plate
- Imagine you have never seen a raisin before – look at them carefully. Look at their colour, shape and surface texture.
- Now pick one up and notice how it feels – is it sticky? soft?
- Roll it around between your fingers close to your ear – does it make any sound?
- Now raise it to your nose and smell it -does it have any smell?
- Finally put the raisin in your mouth but do not bite it ! Roll it around with your tongue – what do you notice?
- Now you can bite it , but just once …. roll it around with your tongue again , what do you notice ?
- Now slowly chew it up – don’t swallow yet. Notice how the texture changes.
- Now consciously swallow it.
- You have just eaten one raisin mindfully – now do the same with the following two raisins.
- What was it like for you to eat these tiny raisins this slowly with so much interest and care? Were you surprised at how much flavour one raisin could have? How different was this from how you would normally eat raisins? Were your more satisfied with eating these three raisins than you would normally be?