Catherine Comiskey, LCSW
From Mindless to Mindful Eating
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
In today’s fast paced world our ability to enjoy and relish in food has suffered. Many of us find ourselves eating on the go or while we are preoccupied with work, TV, or our phones. It's easy to see how eating has become such a mindless part in our busy lives. So how can we break this cycle and begin to mindfully enjoy our meals? First let’s get clear about what mindfulness is. Simply put, mindfulness is about being in the moment, or in the “here and now.” Now let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of mindful eating and some tips to begin to cultivate this habit.
One of the key benefits of mindful eating that often gets overlooked is rejoining pleasure with food. Eating is something that can and should evoke a sense of pleasure, however when we are eating in the car or in front of the TV, we lose the ability to fully appreciate and savor the tastes and smells of our food. Additionally, food is a charged topic for many of us. We often label food as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. It becomes a sense of shame, judgment and fear - a far cry from pleasure. You deserve to fully immerse yourself in the delicious and pleasurable sensations that come with eating.
Facilitating a mind-body connection is another benefit to mindful eating. We can begin to bridge our minds and bodies when we thoughtfully tune-in to how we feel while eating. For instance, mindful eating can help you better gauge when you are hungry and when you are full. It can also help you notice the foods that feel nourishing versus the foods that leave you feeling tired. Additionally, as you become more present with your eating, you’ll begin to notice the emotions that are connected with certain foods. Becoming curious about these connections between food and feelings can help you release associations or beliefs that don’t serve you and begin to connect with more intuitive eating habits.
Cultivating a practice:
It’s important to note three mindfulness skills to utilize throughout the practice.
Applying a non-judgmental stance
Pay attention to one thing at a time
Choose a piece of food. You can practice mindful eating with any food so use what’s available to you (I suggest something that you find pleasure in eating and is bite sized, such as a piece of chocolate or a grape). It can be helpful to first practice mindful eating when you are not experiencing strong emotions or are very hungry.
First take a moment to investigate your item of food. Noticing its shape, color, texture. Now bring this food to your nose and notice if you smell anything. Pause and consider how your body will feel as you anticipate eating this food.
When you are ready to experience the food in your mouth, place it on your tongue. Chew slowly and focus your full attention on the food’s taste and texture. Perhaps close your eyes so you can fully focus on the taste of the food. Be aware of any desire you have to rush through this. When you are ready, swallow your food and follow the taste as long as you can.
Try eating a variety of foods mindfully. Also, think about ways to make this a more enjoyable activity. Perhaps you can turn it into a date and make it an opportunity to connect with a partner. After all, food is best shared!
Sometimes our relationship with food can be so deeply entrenched and painful that practicing mindfulness can be difficult. Know that therapy can be a useful tool to help you better understand and heal your relationship to food and your body.
- Catherine Comiskey, LCSW