Mindful eating exercise is a great way to practice mindfulness. It is simple and peaceful. Many people might wonder why you would want to engage in this activity. However, many benefits are easy to see once you experience it for yourself.
You can start out doing it for a short time and eventually practice mindful eating throughout an entire meal.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is not a diet. You can practice this method of self-awareness with any food or meal. It requires you to pay attention to the entire process of consuming food. You connect with yourself, your body, your emotions, and the food.
When you do this exercise, you can practice mindfulness not only while consuming your meal, but also when you are shopping for the food, when you are preparing it, and when you are spending time with others enjoying the entire process.
One of the critical aspects of this exercise is that it does not restrict your food options. It is not about putting limits on yourself. That is one of the reasons that it is so effective at treating many food and weight-related issues. Often people want the things they cannot have. With mindful eating, you do not have that resistance because you are allowed to enjoy the foods you like.
The Benefits of Mindful Eating Exercises
There are many benefits when you practice mindful eating. It is a great way to help yourself become healthier mentally and physically. Some of the people who benefit from mindful eating are those who want to lose weight, get in touch with their inner self, and anyone who wants to slow down their fast-paced life.
Awareness of Your Emotions Towards Food
Mindful eating helps you to become more aware of your emotions towards food. While practicing this technique, you can connect more deeply to the way you feel when you take each bite. The ability to tap into your emotional response makes this practice perfect for people with attachments towards food.
Some of the people that can benefit from these exercises in this way are people with:
- Binge eating disorder
When you become aware of your emotions towards food, you will be able to process those emotions better. For example, if you have binge eating disorder, through mindful eating, you can tap into the way eating a favorite meal makes you feel. Then, you can search for healthier ways to create those emotions.
Likewise, if you have anorexia or bulimia, you can realize the negative feelings you have when you eat. Whether you have anxiety about gaining weight or you experienced trauma relating to food, you will be more equipped to work through that.
Practicing mindful eating exercises may help to raise a person’s connection to spirituality. A research study found that there are benefits from mindful eating in relationship to self-acceptance and overall spiritual well-being. Through becoming more aware when consuming food, people felt more able to facilitate a spiritual connection.
Weight Loss and Lowered BMI
Most people quickly gobble down their meals without giving their meal a second thought. Chances are, you have eaten many meals, and when you are finished, you do not remember exactly the way the meal tasted. The reason is that you are focusing on so many things at the same time.
When you are not mindful while eating, you are not as likely to notice when you are full. However, when you are conscious of your body and feelings, you better able to recognize when you are eating because you need to and when you are eating just to take another bite.
Mindful eating also helps you to know when you are full because the exercises require you to chew each bite thoroughly and savor the flavors. Doing this takes more time, which gives your body a chance to signal when you are full. Therefore, lowering your BMI and losing weight is easier.
Increased Mental Health and Lower Stress
Mindful eating exercises are a great way to lower your stress levels and become more healthy mentally. Experts say that the benefits might even carry over to other areas of your life. They also suggest that runners and other athletes use this method to improve their performance.
Reduction in Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. The disease is prevalent in people who are overweight, especially those with excess belly fat and people who consume a high carb diet. Some studies show that mindful eating is capable of helping people who have Type 2 diabetes lower their A1C.
So, if you need help with any of these things, mindful eating might be a good practice for you to begin.
When Should You Practice Mindful Eating Exercises?
One of the great things about mindful eating is that you can do it almost anytime. There are many different ways to do it. So, you can easily find one that works for you. You can even involve your entire family in practice. It is a great way to disconnect from the constant need to be on social media or connected to devices, as well.
How Often Should You Practice Mindful Eating
There are no restrictions on how often you practice mindful eating. However, to truly observe the benefits, it is a good idea to do this for several weeks. A group of people who practiced mindful eating exercises over six weeks noticed significant weight loss that they sustained in the months following.
You can dedicate yourself to doing this each time you eat, or if you are using this method to become more mindful, you can do it several times a week. The frequency you practice will depend on the type of exercise you are doing, though.
Types of Mindful Eating Exercises
The way you practice will significantly depend on your goals. If you want to explore your feelings towards food, you probably want to do this exercise on your own. If you want to disconnect from the outside world and connect more with your family, you can do it with a table full of people.
Eating Exercises to Increase Mindfulness
Mindfulness is similar to meditation. However, many people find it easier. Being mindful just means that you are aware of your thoughts, feelings, and you are living in the moment. You are not doing things on autopilot. Everything that you are doing is purposeful, and you are aware of the way it makes you feel.
If you want to become better at meditation, mindfulness is a great first step. Practicing during eating is the perfect way because consuming food gives you sensations that you can tap into.
To begin, you will want to select food that you enjoy. It does not have to be a whole meal. A piece of chocolate or strawberry is a good choice. Something with dynamic flavors also works well. Or, you can even do this with a smoothie that has multiple ingredients.
After you have selected the food, you will sit in a peaceful place, without distractions. With the food in front of you, pay attention to your surroundings. Then, smell the food and think about the way you feel when you smell it.
Next, take a bite. When you bite into it, take time to savor it, and think about these questions:
- What is the texture?
- If it is a fruit, is it juicy?
- How does it feel on your tongue?
- Does your mouth water when you bite into it?
- Is it sweet, salty, savory, spicy, bland, or flavorful?
- What flavors can you taste?
- Are some flavors stronger than others? If so, which ones?
As you chew the food, take note of how the flavor and consistency changes. After you eat the bite fully, pay attention to the way it feels when you swallow. Feel the food as it goes down your throat and into your stomach.
Just the simple act of taking a bite and asking yourself these questions causes you to be mindful. You are engaging with the food as you eat it and becoming aware of the way it affects you and how it affects your body.
Once you experience this, you are better able to practice mindful eating with others, as well. Plus, you are also more equipped to practice mindfulness in other areas of your life. The benefits of this exercise should be a sense of peace and even accomplishment.
Eating a Meal Mindfully
Eating an entire meal mindfully might seem difficult; however, the more you practice, the better you will get. Eventually, this will become more of a way of life for you. Many people eat this way all the time. Often these individuals are more conscious of the food they eat. They choose better quality foods, and they eat less.
To do this, you need to be aware of each bite. Chewing your food completely is key to mindful eating. You are not just swallowing huge mouthfuls. You must take the time to let the food break down in your mouth before it goes into your stomach.
You also need to eliminate distractions, which is a good practice at mealtime anyway. So, put your phone up and turn off the TV. Then, enjoy the table and your environment. Pay attention to the way the food looks and smells. You can also take in the other people you are dining with as they eat and enjoy their meal.
When you take a bite, pay attention to the colors on your fork or spoon.
Preparing a Meal Mindfully
Mindful eating exercises are not all about eating. You can practice mindfulness throughout the entire process of buying and preparing a meal. If you are new to mindful eating, set some time aside to do these activities. Make a whole day of purchasing the food, preparing the meal, and then enjoying what you create.
Buying the Food
So often, we run through the grocery store because we are busy. Perhaps you stop at the store after work, and you are tired, or you go to the store on Sunday, and you want to get the shopping done as quickly as possible so you can relax.
Whatever the reason, most people are half distracted the entire time they shop. They are on their phones or thinking about a long list of things they have to get done when they leave the store. Most people often forget the essential items they need at the store due to those distractions.
So, practicing mindfulness at the store can actually make your shopping trip more enjoyable and help you to avoid forgetting important items you need.
If you typically go to a chain grocery store, instead try going to a farmer’s market. While you are there, take in the beauty of the produce, think about the way it smells as you pass by different items, and try picking up some new or exciting foods to try.
Making the Meal
Preparing your meal is a great way to connect in a healthy way with your food. If you do not typically cook, or you do not know how to cook, that is okay. You might find that by practicing mindfulness while you prepare your food, you are a better cook.
If you are not a great cook, try making something simple to start. Soups are usually easy to make, so maybe start with that. However, whatever you make, try to make it from scratch.
While you are preparing the meal, eliminate all distractions. Put your phone notifications on silent and turn the TV off. As you chop the vegetables, cook the meat, and get everything together, enjoy the process. Doing this will help you connect to the food when you eat it.
Eating Your Creation
When you are done cooking, enjoy your meal. Set the table, so you create an enjoyable environment. Keep all distractions away and be in the moment with the people around you.
Have a meaningful conversation, and engage with them about what they think about your dinner. Ask them what their favorite parts are and share yours. Take note of things you could do differently next time to make it even better. Pay attention to what flavors come through and which are more muted.
It is also a good idea not to “wash your food down” with water or other beverages. However, it is not a bad thing to drink while you are eating. Just make sure that you chew each bite thoroughly. Then, if you want something to drink, go ahead. Be mindful of what you are drinking as well. Pay attention to the temperature, flavors, and the way your stomach feels after you take a sip.
Fondue is a perfect meal choice if you want to practice being mindful while eating. If you have a restaurant near you that serves fondue, that is an excellent option for people who do not like to cook themselves. Or, you can create your own fondue, with an enlightened cheese recipe.
While you are dipping the food into the pot and eating it, you will find it really easy to connect. It also takes time to cook the food, which gives you a chance to chew your food and your body to register that you have eaten it.
It is tough to scarf down your meal if you have to cook each bite. So, this is a great mindful eating exercise for people who want to lose weight. Think of it like the cook who is full by the time they get to the table because as they were cooking, they were nibbling on the food.
Most people really engage with each bite as they eat fondue as well. If you have tried it before, consider that meal. You likely shared your thoughts on each of the things you tried with the other people in your party. If you did this, you have actually practiced mindful eating before.
Mindful Eating for Eating Disorders
If you suffer from an eating disorder, you might want to practice mindful eating alone and journal as you eat. First, prepare one of your favorite meals. Then, sit at the table in quiet.
Before you begin eating, as you are smelling the food in front of you, tap into your feelings about the food. Write down everything you feel using the questions below:
- Are you excited?
- Do you feel nervous or guilty?
- What do you think of the foods on your plate?
- Are there some items you have a negative emotion towards and others you feel good about eating?
Take your first bite practicing mindfulness. Then, assess the way the food made you feel after you ate it. Take notes after each bite and include the way you felt after each bite. Pay attention when you become full and finish your meal at that point. Do not force yourself to finish everything on your plate.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder, it is also a good idea to work with a therapist who can help you work through your emotions related to food. Find one that has experience working with mindful eating and who you can relate to positively. Share your notes with them and the feelings you have.
Mindful Eating for Kids
Children can really benefit from mindful eating because it teaches them to have a healthy relationship with what they eat. It also helps to prevent eating disorders later in life. Just like adults, mindful children have lower stress levels and anxiety.
The younger a child is, the more natural mindful eating can be. As children turn into teens, like adults, they become so connected with the things they need to do, want to do, and with social media that it becomes more difficult for them to focus on being in the present moment. So, mindful eating is a great skill to teach toddlers and young children.
Of course, teens will also benefit; however, you might find it more challenging to get them to commit to these exercises. That does not mean you should not try, though.
Food Tasting Exercise
A food tasting is a fun way to involve children in the practice of being present while they eat. To do this, you will need a variety of foods. You can use foods that your child enjoys. However, it is also a good idea to include some foods they have never had before.
When you to this, create plates that have an appealing appearance. Separate each food, so they can identify each one and tell you which foods they like visually.
Then, have them select one to try. Before they take their first bite, ask them to smell the food, and tell you how they think each thing will taste. Then, have them close their eyes as they chew. Make sure they take time while eating, and tell them to think about the way it tastes. After they finish, ask them:
- How did it taste?
- How did that food make you feel?
- Is your tummy full?
Continue to do this with each food. When they tell you they are full, end the exercise. If they do not get to all of the foods, you can put them in the fridge for later.
When they are finished eating, ask them to tell you how they feel and which foods were their favorites. Ask them why they liked the items they enjoyed and what is undesirable about like the foods they did not care for as much.
You will often find that children like the way something tastes, but they do not like the texture. That is valuable information for you because it means you can prepare foods in different ways that might be more appealing to them.
Sometimes a child might not care for something with a specific texture, but that does not mean they do not like the food, so this exercise helps them to identify what they like and do not like about foods.
Guess the Flavors
Another way to get kids involved in the practice of mindfulness as they eat is to have them guess the flavors they taste. You can do this in several different ways. However, using different flavors of ice cream or yogurt is really fun.
Prepare several small bowls of different flavors without letting them see what flavors you are putting in each. Then, sit at the table with them and have them try each. As they try each, ask them to take some time to think about the way each tastes.
Then, ask them to tell you what each flavor is and see how many they can guess correctly. Children will likely enjoy guessing and seeing which ones they are able to identify accurately. When you complete the exercise, ask them about the flavors they liked best.
You can also try this exercise with:
- Nut butter
- Flavored applesauce
- Different flavors of oatmeal
- Flavored milk
Whatever you decide to use, just make sure you do not give your child something you know they dislike, as this might create negative feelings towards food. Also, do not force them to eat something they hate. If they try something and they do not like it, move on to the next item. Doing this empowers them to make choices and gives them some control over the process.
Mindful Eating for Babies
As babies start to eat their first foods, you can help them be aware of their experience. You can also teach them to listen to hunger cues from their bodies. You do this by allowing them to control when they eat and how much.
As babies try their first foods, choose healthy vegetables and fruits, to get them used to eating high-quality, nutritious choices. When they are trying new food, give them time to taste the food and be mindful of their reaction to it.
Let them experience the food before you give them another bite. Giving them time to enjoy each bite before giving them another bite helps them to be present in the moment.
If your child turns their head away from the spoon, wait a while before giving them another bite. If they turn away again, do not continue trying to feed them more.
Babies only need a small amount of food because their stomachs are quite small. So, chances are, if they are turning away, they are not hungry anymore. By not continuing to feed them when they are full, you are teaching them to be mindful of their bodies.
Mindful eating is an excellent practice for everyone. You can practice as a family, with friends, or by yourself, and it will help you connect more deeply to yourself and with the people who are important in your life. Whether you are looking to become more enlightened, less stressed, healthier, or more physically fit, mindful eating exercise is a great tool. Make it part of your life, and the benefits will amaze you.