By Kara Radecki, LCSW, CADC I
The act of mindfulness is, in my professional opinion, an essential skill for everyone. Grounded in Buddhism, mindfulness is the art of staying present in the moment while acknowledging and respecting one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.
Mindfulness in particular can be fantastic for those with problem-eating patterns. The ritual of the family dinner having since dissolved since the invention of the “TV dinner”, meals today are rushed, squished between activities, and often accomplished (using the word loosely) while simultaneously completing another activity. Studies show that eating while doing other activities is linked to weight gain.
Setting a goal of one “mindful meal” per day can be a great start. Set yourself up for success: Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier to give yourself time for eggs and toast in the morning. Actually schedule out that lunch hour (and close your laptop). Set a “No Phones” rule at the dinner table. Then give the following a shot.
Mindfulness is best accomplished using the five senses. I encourage starting small as practice, then working your way up to a full meal. Pro-tip: Use food you enjoy for this activity. A lovely square of dark chocolate, some in-season fruit, or a nice, complex winter salad would be excellent.
Mindful Eating Activity:
Begin by connecting to your breath and body. Notice your seat, what you’re doing with your feet. With your awareness in this moment, notice any thoughts, sensations or emotions you are experiencing. Try not to add judgment. These things just are.
Sight and Touch
Now, bring your attention to the item you’ve decided to eat. Imagine that you are seeing it for the first time. This is a time where you could ponder the source of your food and notice any gratitude you may have. What did it take for this item to get to your table? Observe with curiosity as you pay attention and notice the color, shape, texture, and size. Now place the item between your fingers and feel the texture, temperature and ridges. You may notice smoothness or stickiness. Again, notice if you have any thoughts, sensations or emotions at this time. Continue to breathe and be fully present in this moment.
Take the piece of food and bring it toward your nose and inhale deeply. Smell can conjure strong emotions and memories. Is anything coming up for you? Notice this. Even before you eat it, you may notice that you begin to have a digestive response in your body just by noticing and smelling. Is your stomach growling? Are you salivating?
Touch, Bodily Sensations, and Sound
With full awareness of your hand or hands moving toward your mouth, place your food into your mouth without chewing or swallowing it. Just allow it to be in your mouth, roll it around to different parts of your mouth and tongue. How long can you make a single bite of food last? Notice the flavor and texture. Notice the physical sensations within your body, without judgment or opinion. Continue to breathe as you explore the sensation of having this item in your mouth. Then very slowly begin to chew this piece of food, and notice the parts of your mouth that are involved in chewing. Notice the sound and movement of chewing, as you continue to notice the sensations and flavor. When you are ready, swallow this item and notice the path that it follows from your mouth and throat into your stomach. Notice the sensation and taste that may linger in your mouth. Connect again to your body and your breath and notice your experience in this moment.
Congratulations! You have just experienced mindful eating. It can be a process, but I find that it helps me to enjoy my food, not overeat, and appreciate the moment just a bit more.
If you have any questions on other ways mindfulness can enhance your life, I hope you’ll give me a call.
Kara Radecki was born in Spokane, Washington and now calls Hillsboro her home. After gaining her Master’s of Social Work at California State University, Sacramento with a focus on developmental trauma, Kara began working in community mental health serving those experiencing houselessness and extreme states of severe mental illness. In addition to running her businesses, Kara has two children, a rambunctious border collie, and an undetermined number of chickens. Spending time outside, running, and listening to music refuels her after a long day.