Mindful Eating

Last weekend, I participated in a three hour silent retreat with The Center for Mindful Eating. This was a celebration to close January’s mindful eating month (see The Center For Mindful Eating blogpost). I had never done anything like this before and was unsure of what to expect. I’ve been so busy lately and didn’t really have the time, but decided to make it a priority. I’m glad I did.

My experience

It was a virtual event, with people attending from all over the world. It was a beautiful experience. In the week leading up to the event, I was sent emails which gave me information about what to expect and what to bring. As a minimalist, I made do with what I had. Instead of a yoga mat, I grabbed a blanket. I had no special cushion, so I grabbed the seat cushion off a chair.

There were four facilitators to guide us through different meditations. Before the meditations, the facilitator would read a poem to set the tone. After each meditation there was a 5 minute break to take care of any physical needs we might have, or to just sit quietly. This took up the first two hours. We did some sitting or lying meditations (whichever position we felt most comfortable in), including a body scan. We also did a walking meditation, and some gentle movement.

At the end of two hours, we ate together using mindful eating techniques. We had been asked in advance to bring a meal.

I’m passing on some mindful eating tips hoping that they will be helpful for you in learning to control your food cravings, and your relationship with food.

Helpful rituals for focus while eating

  1. Pause before eating – Take a deep breath. Shift from work to the table. Leave the task you were doing and bring your full attention to the present moment. It only takes seconds. It’s a conscious decision to pause and put down your computer or cell phone. Look at your food as if you have never seen it before. Observe the colors. Take in the odors.
  2. Tummy Check – Is hunger present? Sometimes we eat for reasons other than hunger. If this is the case for you in this moment, recognize that. If you choose to eat anyway, do it without judgment and do it with awareness. However, ask yourself this question. If I’m eating when I’m not hungry, how will I know if I’m full?
  3. Gratitude – Recognize that your mind can distract you and that you can be dwelling in a darker space (frustration, anger, fear). Practice dwelling in a lighter space (encouragement, empathy, compassion, forgiveness). By cultivating gratitude, you bring light into your eating space. Speak aloud some words over the food you’re getting ready to eat, thinking of who and what was involved to make this food available to you.
  4. Put your silverware down between bites. Take the time to really chew your food. Think about the taste and texture and how it moves down your esophagus into your stomach. Think about how it will be used to nourish your body.
  5. Check in with yourself partway through and repeat number two.
  6. Eat until you are satisfied. This will become clear to you with practice.

More tips

Each eating experience is unique. For example, food tastes different as your hunger decreases. Listen to the shift. You’ll know exactly when to stop eating. Eliminate distraction as it robs you of your eating experience.

Be mindful of your thoughts. Our mind can tell us crazy things if we listen to it. As I mentioned in Thoughts are Like Airplanes, you don’t have to believe everything your head tells you. Don’t get into good or bad, right or wrong. Let all of that thinking go and have a way to observe your experience. Was it pleasant? Unpleasant? Neutral? Whenever you’re eating, whatever you’re eating, you always have the power to make the experience of eating more enjoyable. Move toward the things that are pleasant for you.

Be kind to yourself. Be grateful for the effort to take time to eat lunch, to take time to make a meal. There is no right or wrong way. Start where you are. Find your own path.

When eating with others, talk about your eating experience. You can still focus on your food and check in with yourself from time to time to assess where you are on your own internal hunger-satiety scale.

Remember, you always have choice. You can choose to take another bite, or you can choose to put the food down. Take the time to notice the food that you choose to eat and if it makes this task easy or difficult and why. Don’t judge, just notice and maybe this insight will drive food choices in the future.

Saying good-bye

After our eating experience, we had a final meditation. It was a beautiful meditation that brought up many valuable insights for me. We were encouraged to be mindful as we proceeded with the rest of our day, as this internal work can leave you feeling vulnerable. We left our comments in the chat about our experience. These were beautiful, encouraging words, and then we said good-bye.

I hope that my experience and the ideas presented here can help you as you seek to have a good relationship with food and learn to love yourself with every bite.


Exploring Mindful Eating – Megrette Fletcher MEd, RD, CDE The Center for Mindful Eating https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/

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