Mindful eating

Just like it is important to notice what we eat, it is important to notice how we eat as well. Mindfulness is about noticing the present moment, and doing it without judgment or criticism.

Mindful eating can help us notice how we eat and notice the signals our body gives us about eating and how much food we need.

Ask yourself these questions

  • Do you sit still, eat slowly, and savour your food?
  • Do you eat quickly in a rush in between tasks?
  • Do you enjoy eating a meal?
  • Do you listen to your body signals telling you that you are full or still hungry?

Benefits of eating mindfully

Eating mindfully helps us get in touch with signals from our body that tell us when we are hungry and when we are full and helps us eat according to these signals. This helps:

  • Notice if our eating is for hunger and need or for other reasons such as feeling sad, bored or stressed
  • Slow down our eating which is important for losing weight
  • Enjoy food noticing what it tastes like, how it feels in our mouth, what it smells like, and what it looks like.

How do we do it?

Try the following activity to help you practice mindful eating by eating chocolate (from Williams and colleagues). It is important for most of our diet to come from nourishing foods like fruit and vegetables, it is also equally important not to deprive ourselves or to think of foods as being “bad” or “good”. It is perfectly ok to enjoy sweets occasionally; the key is to savour and enjoy them.

Try this exercise in mindful eating with chocolate

  • Take your chocolate and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb. Imagine you have just arrived from another planet and you’ve never seen an object like this before.
  • Spend a few seconds really seeing the chocolate. Pay full attention to it, examining its colour, shape, and size. Is it uniform in shape or asymmetrical? If you had to describe it to someone who had never seen it before, what would you say?
  • Move the chocolate around between your fingers. What does it feel like? Is it smooth or rough? Is it heavy or light? Does the texture change as it warms up in your hand? Try feeling the chocolate with your eyes closed. Does that change your sense of the chocolate in your hand?
  • Hold the chocolate beneath your nose. Take a few deeps breaths, noticing the smell of the chocolate. Notice any sensations happening in your mouth or stomach as you smell the chocolate. Notice any thoughts or urges you have.
  • Now bring the chocolate to your lips. Notice how your hand and arm move exactly to where they need to go without you really having to focus on it. Place the chocolate on your tongue, without chewing, noticing how it gets into your mouth. Spend a few minutes noticing the sensation of the chocolate on your tongue. Has the texture changed? What happens to the form of the chocolate? Notice any urges or changes in your mouth, tongue, and stomach.
  • Now try chewing the chocolate. Has it moved around in your mouth? Notice what happens as the chocolate moves between your teeth. Notices the taste spread around your mouth. Chew, without swallowing, and notice how the taste and texture changes in your mouth as you chew the chocolate. Notice your thoughts and physical sensations.
  • Before you swallow, try to notice the urge to swallow. What happens in your mouth and throat? What happens to your tongue? What happens to the saliva in your mouth? Notice the urge to swallow consciously before you actually swallow.
  • Notice what happens as you swallow the chocolate now. Can you feel it moving down your throat into your stomach? How does your tongue feel now? What about your mouth? What can you taste and smell? Sense how your body feels as a whole and notice any thoughts or feelings that might drift through your mind.