During the holidays, or even as part of your 'new year new you momentum', see if you can adopt a more mindful approach to eating.
Practice now with this 10 minute exercise to eating mindfully.
Chinese Medicine and eating mindfully
In Chinese Medicine, we should always eat mindfully. But talking from experience… it takes
I’ve created a guided mindful eating meditation video here where I’ll talk you through exactly
how to do it.
For those of you who would read all about it, I’ve also summarised it below.
This is a mindfulness exercise and I think this helps massively - and I know it helps me when I
remember to do it. And this one, just helps you connect back in.
So much of when a lot of people complain about their weight and you know... Most of that comes from eating mindlessly, meaning you're not paying attention to what you're eating. You're not connecting with what it is that you're doing. You're eating while you're watching the telly or your kids are running around, or you're eating in your car and whatever. I know life's a bit different now. But just sitting staring into space and eating, and then we tend to eat a lot more because we're not actually paying attention, and we're not paying attention to our body signals.
Step 1 to mindful eating
First step to mindful eating - find something to eat
Go grab some food. Something easy like a raisin or a grape or nut, biscuit, something.
Preferably something kinda quite natural. Fruit or a nut or something would be really good but
just something small enough to hold.
Step 2: Take a deep breath and let’s begin
With your little bit of fruit, nut or whatever it is you've got to hand. I want you to have it in your hand. First things first, get yourself comfortable, get centred. Connect in with your breath and
your body. If you're sitting, feel your feet and notice just what is going on right now.
No judgment, no criticisms, no I need to do this, I need to do that. It's just right here right now. Notice any thoughts, sensations and emotions that you're experiencing. What is your brain trying to tell you just now. What is your body trying to tell you?
Now connect in more with your digestive system and that sensation that you have in your body.
If you're feeling hungry or are you thirsty, or are you full - are you not hungry.
If you could eat absolutely anything in the world right now what would it be?
What is your body hungry for? What is it telling you it wants? Or is it thirsty? What is it thirsty
for? All you're doing is paying attention and noticing the sensations that are giving you this
information. You may not be getting any right now because you are neither hungry nor thirsty.
Just connect in for a minute. Listen to it. What is it telling you?
Step 3: connect with the food in front of you
Now bring your attention to the item in your hand. For me, I've got a little raisin. Imagine you are seeing this thing, this food item, for the very first time in your life.
Observe it with curiosity, pay attention to the colour, the shape, the texture and its size.
Is there anything else that you notice, sense or feel? I've got a raisin so
it is a little sticky. How does it smell? Can you smell anything?
Now think about what it took for this item to get into your hands. You need to have the seeds
grown, the water, the amount of time it takes. The processing, the shipping, the going into your
supermarket, or whatever to buy it. Think about all the people that have been involved in the
making of that one little thing. The farmer, the pilot, the packer, the factories involved in
processing, the packaging of it all. All of that has been involved in you getting your hands on this
little thing. The people that made my car to take me to the shops, the people that made my
clothes so that I could go to the shops and not scare anyone. All these things. Bring your own
gratitude to that. Be mindful of what goes into making your food.
Now take the piece of food. Bring it closer to your nose and smell it. Give it a smell again. Does
it smell of anything? Does it evoke any memories for you? What does your food of choice do to
you? Memory-wise, emotion-wise? Do you get excited about it? Are you noticing your body
starting to respond? Are you starting to salivate a little bit?
Fully focusing on your hand, move it towards your mouth and place the object, whatever it is. You can use chocolate if you want. I wouldn't recommend it, but you can. Place it on your tongue, without chewing it, or swallowing it. Just allow it to sit in your mouth. Use your tongue to roll it around.
Notice the flavour, the texture. Notice if there is any physical sensations within your body,
especially your mouth and your gut. Are you salivating more? Are you desperate to chew? Is it a
chewy food? What does it feel like?
Now I want you to chew it. And chew it until it turns to liquid. Keep chewing and pay attention to
those sensations. Are you desperate to swallow it to get it out your mouth? Does it still taste
good? Does it taste different? Is it exactly the same?
What is going into you chewing that piece of food right now? All your fabulous strong teeth. The
muscles involved in chewing. The saliva that needs to be produced. All those little signals firing
up to your brain, telling you what is going on in your mouth.
Does this taste good? Is it liquid yet?
What does it feel like? Are you ready to swallow it? You want it to be at that stage where it's
almost liquid, where you can't chew it anymore.
That, in Chinese medicine, is how we should always eat. With every single mouthful, you want
to get it to liquid before you swallow it, as much as you can. And when you eat mindfully, that's
much easier to do.
Now when you are ready, swallow it.
Get the sense of the path it follows, from your mouth and down your throat into your stomach.
Can you still taste it in your mouth? Is there a flavour there? Are you aware of it?
Connect in again with your body and your breath now you've swallowed it.
And notice your experience. What does it feel like?
Now hopefully, you've got more than one food item. If you have, take another one and just stick
it in, and shovel it down your throat without paying any attention to it.
Do you notice that difference?
Are you aware that the food - when you've given it attention - tastes better? Does it taste better?
Does it not taste better? Does it taste exactly the same? Are the sensations in your body exactly
the same? Are you aware of how full or empty you are? Do you need more food? Was that one
little wherever-it-was-you-had, was it enough or do you need more?
Learning to eat mindfully...
You don't have to be quite as strict about it, or take ten minutes to eat one nut...
But something that I learned when I was in a Buddhist monastery in South Korea, was that they
do not speak when they are eating.
We were in a room of maybe 40 of us. We all sat on the floor and you got your food presented
in a bowl. The culture particularly for monks is to show utmost respect to the food. It's vegan
food, they eat no animal products at all. Actually they grow it all. (It was a fantastic experience
but that's for another chat!)
We were presented with our food. We were allowed to pick up the bowl, get our chopsticks
ready, but we were not to eat until somebody told us “okay you can eat”.
But from the moment the bowl was put in front of you, you weren't to speak, you weren't allowed to do anything.. it was recommended that all you did was focus on that food.
Now that was some of the tastiest food I ever had in my entire life, and I think most of that is
because all I was doing was focusing on it. I wasn't doing anything else.
The way they ate... you lifted the bowl right up to your face, and then you actually ate it without
taking the bowl away. Your bowl had to cover your mouth as well. It was a really interesting
Take a Moment
I know in our culture they talk about sitting at a dining room table and not having your telly or
your tablet or you know whatever on in the background.
Pay attention to that and ask yourself ‘do I do that?’. Do you have a good relationship with food -
and if you do, then you don't really need to worry about this kind of stuff.
If you don't have a good relationship with food, in whatever way, mindful eating might help
excite you with it again.
Next steps on your mindful eating journey…
Do try the chewing until it's liquid thing with something that's more processed. Try it with a crisp
or even a micro meal, a salami sausage... something that's highly processed. Notice the
difference between eating something that is natural and eating something that's processed. And what happens in your mouth before you swallow it, if you chew it for long enough.
It's a very interesting experiment and I'm not gonna bias you by telling you my opinion on it, but
it's very interesting. Give it a try the next time you're eating a bag of crisps!
Let me know how you get on!