Connecting with our body is an innate quality. We often see young children leave food or ice cream on their plates and just walk away, with “I’m full.” But unfortunately, this natural connection weakens as we grow up, in part due to conditioning from guardians telling us to “finish our plate” or simply eating when we’re bored, without paying attention to what we eat and when our body is telling us to stop eating.
The good news is that we can restore this ability with mindfulness practices. A consistent practice of mindfulness meditation is key to achieve this connection with our body and observe our thoughts, emotions and identify our eating triggers and manage them. However, for now you can start taking small steps that can help you eat more mindfully:
- Just Eat While Eating
In order to eat mindfully, plan to eat without doing anything else aside from eating. That is, without watching TV or working or driving.
- Tune Inwards
Mindful eating actually begins before you are ready to eat. It starts when you first feel the urge to eat, when that feeling comes up, with your eyes closed or open, take three deep breaths and observe your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in your body. Notice if you experience any sensations of physical hunger, and if so, rate how hungry you are. Then notice what are you hungry for, and if there’s a particular type of food you would like to have, then ask yourself will this food nourish my body and support my health? Will this food give me pleasure? Then if you decide to eat…
- Use your Five Senses
- Sight – With the food in front of you, notice what it looks like. Pay attention to the shape, color, size, etc.
- Smell – Then take a moment to smell the food, paying attention to the layers of aroma as they go through your nose. Really examine the food, as if you’re seeing it and smelling it for the very first time.
- Touch, Sound & Taste – As you bring the food to your mouth, slow down and chew slowly with your mind focusing on the process. Be aware of the texture of the food, the sound of the food while you chew, and the taste of the food as it changes while you chew. Don’t do anything else while you’re chewing, simply chew and pay attention.
- Chew Slowly
Keep chewing while resisting the impulse to swallow, and when you decide to swallow, pay attention to how this feels in your body and to the intention of swallowing. As you swallow, feel the food moving through the throat, esophagus and resting in your stomach. After you swallow, rest for a few seconds before you take the next bite.
- Pay Attention to your Thoughts, Emotions and Distractions
While you are eating, become aware of recurring thoughts or emotions, and when you notice that your mind is wandering, investigate your distraction and gently bring your attention back to eating.
- Keep Examining your Hunger, Fullness, Taste & Satiety
While eating, gently notice your hunger and satiety levels, and then give yourself permission to stop eating when your body tells you so, when you no longer enjoy the taste as much, when you’re no longer physically hungry and when your stomach feels comfortably full and your satiety feeling gives you the signal of energy and well being.
With time and consistent practice, you can practice mindful eating, without closing your eyes, and while around people and no one will notice what you are doing.
Rajaa Azouqa is a seasoned leader in the Mindfulness space with three professional certification programs from the University of Toronto and University of California, Berkeley. She is Certified MB-EAT Instructor (Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training) and completed MBSR Certificate Training Program (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), as well as 10-day Vipassana silent retreat course. Rajaa has held a personal practice in mindfulness for 16 years and has attended 25 long-term courses and retreats in academic and traditional settings, and has over 10,000 hours of mindfulness meditation practice. In addition to her focus on Mindfulness, Rajaa is a registered E-RYT 500 yoga teacher along with other overlapping areas of expertise that have helped make her an incredibly well-rounded instructor. Visit YogaRenew’s Online Teacher Training Mindful Eating Course or more information.