• Jenny Bell

Mindful Eating: A Beginner's Guide

Updated: Jan 20

#eating #mindfuleating #health #intuitiveeating #diet

Mindfulness can extend to all aspects of our lives. But many struggle with mindfulness extending to food. I have seen many people succeed in mindfully listening to those they love, mindfully do well at their job and even mindfully practice yoga but they cannot seem to get that mindfulness to transfer to eating. I believe there are many factors that lead to this mindless food consumption. But I am not here to discuss that topic.

I am here to help you connect to your food, your health, your body and learn how to be a mindful eater.

Mindful eating is not a diet, a trend or a weight loss gimmick. It is a simple practice that will help you extend mindfulness to your buying of food, preparing it and eating it. It may help you maintain a healthier weight and make better food choices, but this is not the focus. I want you to know that I have not always been a mindful eater. I have a history of binge eating especially during times of stress and depression. But I have learned to bring my mindful awareness to eating and this awareness has helped me make better choices for my body.

So how do we eat mindfully? I am going to give a series of exercises to try. You do not have to do them all and you do not have to do them in the order they are listed. Broken-Better is always about making yourself your best version. In my posts, I try to provide multiple options to suit multiple people.

Mindful Eating Exercises Part 1: Bring the Food Home:

-Plan a trip to the grocery store, where you can be there for an hour or more. If possible, go alone and go without a list. This exercise is a kind of walking meditation. Walk up and down every aisle and section mindfully taking it in. Take deep breaths and simply observe. What people are there shopping? What are they buying? What food items are stored at the top of the shelves, middle and lower shelves? Which food items are stored next to one another? Why? Pick up produce, what does it feel like? What colors do you see? Pick a store you go to frequently and try not to buy anything during this exercise. If possible, journal about your experience answering the following questions:

1. What did you observe at the grocery store?

2. Was this experience pleasant, why or why not?

3. How is the store set-up? What items are easily seen or in reach? Why?

4. How is the produce section different than the rest?

5. What were the other shoppers buying?

-Visit a local farmer's market. This shopping trip, feel free to purchase items but only after you talk to at least one farmer or vendor about what they are selling. Ask them about their food, where it comes from and what to do with it. Many vendors at the farmer's market really take pride in what they are selling. At my local market, I adore the avocado farmer. He is truly happy and proud of his avocados. I enjoy hearing him speak about them.

1. How is a farmer's market different than a grocery store?

2. Which do you prefer and why?

3. What did you observe and learn there?

-Visit a U-Pick Farm. Plan for a few hours and dress for an outdoor adventure. If you can, go with friends or family and make it a fun time. While visiting, really take in the farm. Breathe deep and observe. While picking the fruit really feel the fruit in your hand, is it warm from the sun? Look at the tree it is coming from, relish in the wonder of this little fruit growing just for you. Feel gratitude. Think about how this little fruit came to be.

1. Did you enjoy the experience, why or why not?

2. Do you feel more connected to this fruit as opposed to fruit you buy at a store, why?

-Try growing your own food. It can be as simple as a green onion that you cut the greens off of and put in a cup of water in the fridge to sprout or as involved as a garden. Tend to your food.

1. How does it feel to eat something you have grown?

2. Is growing your own food easier or harder than you expected, why?

3. What have you learned from this process?

I hope you try at least one of the above exercises. These exercises are to help you connect better to where you buy your food. This connection will aid in your appreciation and understanding of the food, which in turn helps you be more mindful. Now, that we have practiced being more mindful about the food we bring into our home, let us know look at some practices we can do while preparing our food.

Mindful Eating Exercises Part 2: Preparing the Food:

-Before you eat a convenience food, read all of the ingredients and packaging. Find out where the food is made and perhaps research the company. Next, look up any unfamiliar ingredients in the food and see what it is truly made of. This exercise makes some people uncomfortable. I have heard many people say that they would rather not know what is in the food so they can still enjoy it. This practice is mindless and not mindful. It is important for you to know what you are putting into your body.

1. How did this exercise make you feel?

2. After you learned about the product, did you still want to eat it? Why or why not?

3. Can you extend this exercise to other foods?

-Try a new recipe. Find a new recipe and mindfully prepare it. Turn off all music, television and cook alone if possible. Read over your recipe, gather your ingredients and before you start, take a deep breath and say aloud "I am here to nourish myself." Then begin. Try to be in the moment, cooking. If thoughts pop up, recognize them and let them go. Focus on what you are doing in the kitchen. This is a cooking meditation. For me, cooking has always been a time of peace for me. It forces me into the moment and I enjoy it. I hope this helps you enjoy it, as well.

1. How did it feel to cook this time? Was it different than in the past?

2. Were you able to enjoy some moments of just cooking and no other distraction?

I hope these exercises help you enjoy the process of preparing food. Many people tell me they do not cook because they do not have time or they do not know how. Most of my meals take about 1/2 an hour from start to finish and my family all pitches in to clean up. Food does not have to be complicated. Simply cutting yourself some fruit is preparing a meal. Now, that we have practiced mindfully preparing our food, here are some ideas on how to eat more mindfully.

Mindful Eating Exercises Part 3: Eating Mindfully

-Before you begin eating a meal or snack, place the food in front of you and take a deep breath. Really look at the food and try to imagine how it came to you. Was it grown on a farm, caught in the ocean, prepared at a restaurant? What is the story of this food and where will the story continue? Think about how this food will enter your body, nourishing you along the way. Then take another deep breath and eat your food, in silence if possible. Eat slowly and continue to focus on the story of this food coming to you and how it will help your body.

1. What was the story you imagined?

2. Did this food taste differently?

3. How did you feel after this meal?

-Lastly, we will practice gratitude for our food. As in the previous exercise, lay your food before you and take a deep breath. This time giving thanks aloud or in your head for each part. You can be thankful for the animal that gave its life for you to live yours, the farmer who grew the apple until it was perfect to pick, the truck driver who delivered the food to your grocery store or the clerk who helped you purchase your food. There is not limit to gratitude. Give thanks for all involved in this meal or snack. You can also give thanks for your body and its health and its ability to digest the food. You can eat and think of all the people and aspects you are grateful for.

1. Were you surprised at how many things you could be grateful for?

2. How does the gratitude make you feel when eating?

I hope that you are able to use these exercises whenever you see yourself mindlessly eating. When we eat mindfully, we tend to eat healthier, slower and not overeat. This is because we are present in the moment and listening to our bodies. Too ofter people eat while talking or distracted in other forms allowing themselves to not think about what or how much food they are consuming. I hope this post helps you, leave a comment or question if you try an exercise.

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