Mindfulness around eating and food can be helpful in many ways, including:
- Decreasing compulsive eating that’s more about stuffing feelings, than providing nutrition
- Increasing awareness of food choices, in the service of selecting healthy ones
- Increasing enjoyment of food, rather than taking it for granted
- Providing an opportunity to strengthen the muscle of presence, rather than preoccupation, by practicing mindfulness in another form
The mindful eating exercise below is essentially a type of mindfulness meditation that’s less traditional than something like a mindful breathing exercise. This exercise is based on the work Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD., founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and author of best-selling book, Wherever You Go, There You Are.
Note: requires use of raisins; other types of foods can be substituted such as other fruit, popcorn, peanuts.
1.) Find a comfortable seated position. Come into the present moment by taking a few breaths, noticing how you feel physically.
2.) Place a few raisins in your hand. Notice the impulse you might have to pop them all in your mouth right away.
3.) Look at the raisins, examining them with curiosity as if you’ve never seen one before.
4.) Notice how they feel in your hand – the texture, shape and weight. You may want to close your eyes while doing this.
5.) Notice the color of the raisins and if they have any unique features.
6.) Imagine where the raisins came from, how they started as juicy grapes on the vine. Picture the workers on the farm harvesting the grapes and another set of workers transporting the raisins to the store.
7.) Slowly bring one raisin to your nose to see what it smells like. Notice how naturally your arm moves to do this.
8.) Continue to notice any thoughts of like or dislike you might have of as you observe the raisin. Notice whether you’re anticipating what it will taste like. Perhaps you’re starting to salivate or feeling an impulse to put the raisin into your mouth right away.
9.) Ever so slowly, place the raisin in your mouth, without biting into it. Explore what it feels like in your mouth, notice what your tongue is doing. Keep it in your mouth without chewing for at least 10 seconds. Notice what it’s like to take this time before eating the raisin.
10.) When you are ready, slowly and softly bite into the raisin, taking one or two bites.
11.) Without swallowing, notice what it tastes like, how its flavor and texture changes as you chew. Notice your natural impulse to swallow it.
12.) When you are ready, swallow the raisin.
13.) Sit quietly and notice what you are feeling.
In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn: you are now one raisin heavier!