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How we eat influences our health and well-being as much as what we eat. Have you ever been snacking while watching TV or at your computer, and suddenly recognized that you consumed the whole bag of chips without being aware of it? Even though you mindlessly eat more food than you needed, you may still not feel satisfied. That’s because mindless eating leads to overconsumption, increased calories, unhealthier choices, and less fulfillment.

Becoming more mindful and aware of what we are eating is the first step to making healthier food choices…

There’s a science to it. After we eat, our gut releases a peptide that sends a signal to our brain that we are no longer hungry. If we consume food too quickly, this process doesn’t happen quick enough to let our brain know to stop eating, so we continue and often overeat.

A more mindful approach to eating will let our gut take its natural course. Start by slowing down in order to become more aware of the experience of eating. This means bringing your full attention and awareness to the process of eating. Focus all your senses on the meal, and try to notice your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. Even in just one mindful bite, we can begin to notice a heightened sense of smell and taste.

Research shows that food has a diminishing return of pleasure after the first bite. When we eat more mindfully, we are able to better enjoy our food, feel more satisfied with less, and stop eating when we feel satisfied rather than full. It also helps us to let go of emotional or stress-related eating. Becoming more mindful and aware of what we are eating is the first step to making healthier food choices that truly nourish us.

Mindful eating has a positive impact on our health. Research has shown that mindful eating, or eating more slowly, helps with controlling weight, diabetes management, and helps with positive outcomes for men with prostate cancer who are changing their diets. Becoming more aware of why, when, what, and how much we eat allows us to recognize unhealthy habits and behaviors that may be keeping us from making food choices that support our health. With this awareness, we can begin to change our actions and let go of unhealthy patterns that no longer serve us.

A Mindful Eating Exercise: The Taste of Mindfulness in Just One Bite

I chose to eat a fresh, juicy organic strawberry for this mindful eating exercise. Feel free to choose any Ornish-friendly food that you enjoy.

1. Breathe

Take a deep nurturing breath, allowing you to be present in the moment. Notice any thoughts and try to let go of any judgments you may have about doing this exercise. Try to engage an innocent curiosity.

2. Observe

Before even taking the first bite, hold the strawberry in your hand and just notice it. See the strawberry’s vibrant color; smell its fragrance and sweetness. Notice the little ridges of seeds that surround the soft round curves, feel the green leaves around the stem. Appreciate how the sun and rain nourished the plant that grew this little berry and how its nutrients will now nourish you.

3. Taste

Place the strawberry up to your lips and perhaps notice your anticipation of taking the first bite. Notice how you feel right before you take the first bite. Does your mouth begin to water? If yes, then appreciate that this is the beginning of the digestive process. Our bodies begin preparing for nourishment even before we take that first bite. Ask yourself, “Do I feel hungry?”

4. The First Bite

Gently take a bite out of the strawberry. Before chewing it, notice its texture and taste in your mouth. Is it sweet, juicy, tart?

5. Slowly Chew

Begin to slowly chew the strawberry. How does the flavor change? Does it intensify? What thoughts, emotions, physical sensations are arising as you slowly chew this first bite. Be aware of how pleasurable it is. Savor the flavor. Notice the urge to swallow and perhaps the anticipation of the next bite.

6. Swallow

When you are ready, swallow this first bite. Can you detect the conscious intention to swallow as it arises? Swallowing is something that we so often do unconsciously and automatically. Focus on your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. Appreciate how this berry is now sending all those its vital nutrients to your body for nourishment.

7. Eat with Mindfulness

Continue to mindfully eat the strawberry. Notice the difference in the second, third and perhaps fourth bite. When do you start to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and satiated? As you eat this week, try to continue to practice these mindful eating principles. Even one mindful meal is a good start. You don’t need to spend this much time with each bite, but trying to bring the same type of awareness to each meal can be a powerful experience. This is a practice to be cultivated over time, and with each mindful experience, your skills will get stronger. Over time mindful eating will feel natural, and it will promote healthy choices and nourishment for your mind and body.

What are the foods that you most enjoy eating mindfully?

Contributed by

Carra Richling
Registered Dietitian

Eat well, be well!

Better Health Begins With You...

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