A Mindful Meal
Post by Paula Jahn, Co-owner and Registered Dietitian at Nourish Northwest
Summer is a time when most people really get out of their routines. What was a carefully planned dinner in the winter is now an impromptu happy hour with friends, food cart fare, or cheese and crackers because it’s too hot to cook.
I am a dietitian, so I would probably lose my credentials if I said that what you eat does not matter. But, when the ‘what’ is chips and salsa for dinner, how you eat matters even more. This is where mindfulness comes in. There are many benefits to taking a mindful moment with food at least once per day. If you struggle with binge eating or mindless eating in general, the following practice will inevitably lead to a healthier relationship with food, no matter what the food. It can reduce portion sizes, awaken your senses (does this cookie even taste good?), and bring you back in touch with your sensations of hunger and fullness. I think this article about mindful eating resonates with many people.
I encourage my clients to take one mindful meal per day (or, it can be a snack) without any distractions. This means stepping away from all screens, sitting down, and truly being with the food. The hope is that this practice will extend into other meals, and maybe even other areas of your life. The following steps are a mindfulness exercise that can be quite powerful.
Raisin Meditation. (If you hate raisins, practice with an orange or any bite of food.)
Adapted from: Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn (2007). The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. New York: Guilford Press.
Take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb. Focusing on it, imagine that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before in your life. Seeing Take time to really see it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any unique features.
Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture, maybe with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch. Maybe even gently squeeze the raisin between your fingers.
Holding the raisin beneath your nose, with each inhalation take notice of any smell or aroma that may arise, noticing as you do this anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.
Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips. Place the object in the mouth, without chewing, noticing how it gets into the mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments exploring the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.
When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing.
When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.
Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how the body as a whole is feeling after completing this exercise in mindful eating.
Now, of course, it is not practical to do this with every bite at every meal. When the mind wanders, or you start shoveling food at rapid speed, it can be helpful it come back to these six steps. Even if you catch yourself at tasting, that could be the key to slowing down, tasting your food, and enjoying your meal.
Happy eating, no matter what it is!