Mindful Eating

By Paige Holmes, M.Ed, NCC, LPCA

At the end of my MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) training a few years ago, the entire class took an all-day retreat to Camp New Hope. The day was spent reviewing what we learned to take it into our prospective careers (and lives), as well as practicing mindfulness activities and spending a significant amount of time in silence working on paying attention.

This meant that lunch was in silence. I honestly wasn’t looking forward to it, because as an extrovert, I usually view meals as a time to connect and an opportunity for nourishing both our bodies and our social minds. On one hand, eating with someone can be a small way to practice mindfulness - see chart below for multiple ways to practice mindful eating. But on the other hand, eating in silence can force you to be more mindful than usual.

It actually turned out to be my favorite practice exercise of the retreat that day. I vividly remember focusing intently, with so much gratitude, on my Jimmy John’s sandwich. I appreciated all the ingredients, thought about where all the vegetables and toppings came from, and thanked everyone who was involved in making this sandwich, from the farmers to the Jimmy John’s employees. I closed my eyes, took a bite, and savored the tastes in silence. I thanked myself for nourishing my body. It was an oddly special and important moment for me. I slowed down. I took a deep breath and ate my lunch in the present moment, with minimal worries and tensions.

Normally, lunch might be a multi-tasking event where I’m trying to answer some emails or work on my laptop at the same time. Instead of mindful eating, that would be mindless eating, which is super common in our fast-paced society. Admittedly, I also often watch TV while eating, which is totally mindless. Nobody’s perfect!

This week I recommend you try an exercise somewhat like this:

Eating in silence with your family can be a tall order, so it can be as simple as taking a moment at dinner when everyone thinks about where their food comes from and what was involved in the journey it made to their plate. It can be making a rule that there’s no multitasking at the table. It can be making the intentional goal as a family for 1 or 2 meals a week to be as healthy and balanced as possible.

Good luck, and enjoy the ways that eating can help you #growmindful!

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Emily Behr