Mindfulness and Eating

Mindfulness and eating are two things that we benefit from when we properly manage them. Mindfulness is defined by paying attention to the present moment without analysis or judgment. This sounds like a very simple concept but is hard to apply in our demanding lives. Yet the benefits of mindfulness can include: helping us better control and manage overwhelming emotions, distinguishing thoughts and judgments from our true emotional experience, and balancing reason with emotion when making important decisions. Practicing mindfulness can often be associated with meditation, but we can practice mindfulness in our daily lives by applying mindful attention to daily activities.

One daily task in which mindfulness can be practiced effectively is when we eat food. By putting mindfulness in practice while eating you not only get to practice the skill, but you will also hopefully increase your enjoyment of the food as well as become better in tune with your digestive responses so that you reduce the likelihood of overeating. Below are some suggestions on how to apply mindfulness practice to eating:
• First and foremost, try to make the activity free of distraction (don’t watch TV or look at your phone while practicing this mindful activity)
• Next, instead of a meal start with small pieces of food: a handful of grapes, almonds, or baby carrots.
• Before eating the first piece of food, take a few moments to notice and describe (without judgment) the piece of food you are about to eat using your sense of touch, sight, and smell.
• After getting a full feeling for the piece of food, place it in your mouth and notice and describe using your sense of taste.
• Chew the food slowly but consistently and notice the change of texture as you break it down. Aim to chew at least 20 to 30 times.
• After you swallow the food, try and notice any sensations as it travels through your digestive system.
The purpose of this exercise is to be absorbed in the act of eating without paying attention to distracting thoughts or judgments. It is always best to assess how well you practiced mindfulness after you complete the activity. When you finish the mindfulness eating exercise, ask yourself whether your thoughts stayed focused in the moment or whether you got distracted. If you did get distracted, were you able to redirect your mind back to the activity?

As with all skills, the ability to be mindful improves with practice. Mindfulness is a topic incorporated in the DBT group provided at Specialized Therapy Associates. Should you have any interest in this group, please call 201-488-6678 for details.