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It is likely if you read my blog, that you are familiar with the term “mindful eating.” I talked about it in this post: the 5 S’s of Mindful Eating. It is a way of eating in which we can practice mindfulness, two if not three times per day. It’s simple and does not require you to alter your schedule or sit in meditation, yet you gain many of the benefits of a mindfulness practice.
So what exactly is mindful eating? It is a practice focused on your sensual awareness of a food, and your experience of eating it. It is not a diet and has nothing to do with the type of food that you choose to eat. It is about HOW you eat, not WHAT you eat. You can mindfully eat a cupcake in the same way you can mindfully eat a kale salad. However, you may very well notice a difference in how that kale salad makes you feel in comparison to the cupcake. By focusing on the experience of the food and the way the body reacts to it, we develop much better control and clarity over the types of foods with which we want to fuel body.
So many of our bad habits around emotional eating come from childhood. When kids win a sports game or do well in school they are often reward with ice cream or another treat, Is it any wonder that we associate foods with feelings of reward, accomplishment and happiness?
How great would it have been if you had already learned to eat mindfully as a child? Perhaps your relationship with food would look differently now. I believe one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children is to teach them to be healthy eaters and keep them active. That way, they don’t have to struggle with weight and health as they grow older.
By teaching our kids to mindfully eat, we teach them to slow down, appreciate food, and create lifelong healthy eating habits. By eating slower, they improve digestion. Mindful eating also forces us to be present and in the moment. It also allows for better enjoyment of the meals and snacks they eat.
While kids are not going to sit and listen to a lecture about it, they do enjoy learning by doing! For a fun and educational activity this weekend, try this mindful eating exercise with your kiddos. And since mindful eating in not about what you eat, but rather how you eat, let them choose the food for the exercise. We all know that kids love to be involved in decision making!
First, print out this mindful eating log!
Next, choose a simple food (or let your kid choose), like a cracker or a raisin. You could even choose a small cookie since mindful eating is not about dieting.
Start by connecting your breath and body. Notice your breath coming into your mouth and traveling to your lungs. Feel your feet planted firmly on the ground. Notice if you are experiencing any thoughts, sensations, or emotions at this moment. Do you feel hungry or thirsty? Simply observe yourself without judgment.
Now look at the food you selected. How does it appear? What colors do you see? Is it grainy looking or smooth on the surface?
Now close your eyes and focus solely on the sense of touch. How does the texture feel in your hand? Is the food dry or moist? Is it hard or soft?
What do you smell when you hold it in front of your nose? Does the smell stir up and memories or emotions in you?
Remember, we aren’t thinking about the food, we are simply observing it and our response to it.
Now we will move to the sense of taste. You will be eating the selected food in two bites. Take the first bite and chew very slowly for 30 seconds. You may want to set a watch timer. Focus only on the sensations of chewing and tasting. It may help to keep your eyes closed.
Notice the texture and flavor. How do they change over time as you continue to chew?
It’s now time to take your second bite. Chew this bite the same as before and notice if you have the same experience or if it is somewhat different this time.
Discuss or journal your thoughts and experiences in the Mindful Eating Log and consider doing this periodically as a reminder to truly experience your food.