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Mindful Eating: How It Can Help and How to Practice It

Mindfulness refers to being fully engaged and rooted in the present moment, without any concern for the past or future. Mindful eating in its essence, means being fully present with our food and is an integral component of mindfulness, one that could serve as a cure for the restrictions imposed by diet culture. When we build a healthy relationship with our food, one based on nourishment and enjoyment rather than starvation or excess, we can ultimately change the complex and often contentious relationship many of us have with food.  

Mindful eating as a cure to diet-culture and overeating

Diet culture has become a major problem in today’s society, and the even bigger problem: people have normalized it. What’s more, diet culture often revolves around the belief that body shape and outer appearance are more important than overall health and well-being. Individuals minimize the number of calories they need to take or label food as good or bad. They follow fad diets that normalize restriction, starvation, exclusion, and elimination. Those words do not exactly illicit happy memories, I would imagine? Mindful eating diverges from the old way of doing and being and encourages a more symbiotic and harmonious relationship with food.

A problem that is also all-too common and ultimately drives many to crash diet is overeating. Overeating can a occur when we face difficult feelings such as those of anxiety or sadness and then start to utilize food as a coping mechanism. Overeating can also be caused by boredom, leading us to eat mindlessly to fill the time and give ourselves something to do. In contrast, mindful eating focuses on eating only the amount that satiates hunger. By practicing mindful eating, we can work to curb binging and instead focus on enjoying each bite. Moreover, mindful eating can even help fight anxiety, as it is a type of meditation. 

Tips on starting your mindful eating journey:

 1) The raisin eating exercise

✓ Hold the raisin in your palm and feel its weight. Examine its parts. Look deeply at all the details.

✓ Smell the raisin and feel it.

✓ Hold it near your lips and get the grasp of how you feel internally. 

✓ Put the raisin in your mouth and feel its taste without chewing. Is it sweet? Do your salivary glands activate?

✓ Now start chewing it slowly and gently, feeling every bite of it.

✓ When swallowing it, ask yourself, “Did you get what you were hoping for?”

This simple mindful eating exercise is a great example of how it feels to be present as you engage with and ultimately ingest your food. You are fully aware of how it looks, feels, smells, and tests, which forces you off of the day to day “auto-pilot” and into full awareness of the meal that lies in front of you. 2) Try dividing your food into parts. 

Never eat the entire portion in one sitting. Instead, try to enjoy the first serving and then go through the following steps:

✓ Before eating, ask yourself if you are really hungry. 

✓ If yes, then give a thought as to how much food you need to satiate that hunger.

✓ Once you have an amount in mind (one handful, 10 chips, 1 cookie, etc.), take that amount of food and place it on a plate or bowl rather than taking directly from the bag, and then eat slowly and chew completely.

✓ If you are done, then put the bowl and the food away.

✓ If not, follow these same steps again, and do it until you feel that you are satisfied and do not need anymore.

Practicing this particular exercise will ultimately prevent overeating.

 3) Practice food gratitude

✓ Whenever you eat something, write briefly about the experience

✓ Note all of the details about the food and what you enjoyed most about it

✓ Note how you felt about it the experience of eating

✓ Add any other details like whether it satisfied your hunger.

Practicing gratitude is a great way to make us more mindful of what we have and food is no different. When we appreciate the nourishment we provide our body, we may just stop taking it for granted.

4) Ask yourself the following questions:  

Are you hungry? Are you using your food as a way of dealing with boredom, sadness, or anger? If yes, Is there something else you could do other than eat to help yourself deal with these difficult emotions? How much food do you really need if you are in fact hungry? 

If you or someone you know is struggling and would like to speak to a licensed professional, please reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling today!

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