Are you interested in learning how to take a half an hour to learn how to eat a raisin? If so, this is not the blog post for you.
Many clients have asked me to teach a mindful eating class. I would be happy to do that except that I can’t think of anything more hypocritical when the majority of my meals are eaten behind a computer, book, or steering wheel. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true.
Raisins aside, there’s another important way to mindfully eat. Let me ask you this:
How do you know when you’re hungry? Is it a rumbling in your tummy? Because it’s 5pm? When a coworker brings in cookies? After an argument with your spouse?
It’s an important question because many of us can’t tell when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to stop eating.
When I first read that there’s a difference between full and no longer hungry I had to read that three times before it really sunk in. Personally, I knew I was done eating because I was so full I couldn’t physically fit anymore food into my body. But… there was still food on my plate… I had to finish it, right?
I propose mindful modern eating to practice awareness of your bodily sensations, thoughts, and feeling around the eating process wherever you are.
When you notice you have the thought “I’m hungry,” ask yourself: How do I know?” Do I feel hunger in my belly? Throat? Mouth? Pinky finger? Note that those of us who have had physical or emotional trauma, chronic pain/illness, or have hateful relationships with our appearance may be disconnected from our body and bodily sensations. We may have trouble noticing the signs of hunger and satiation. To develop this, we can practice reconnecting to our bodies a small, but important way.
I recommend checking in with your body before you eat, every few minutes while you eat (setting a timer can be helpful), and when you are finished eating. At first, you may not notice any sensations, and that’s ok. This process can sometimes take time. Eventually, you may begin to notice when your body is giving you the signals that it is full or no longer hungry.
Another part of this process is noticing your thoughts and feelings. When you have the thought you are hungry, what feelings arise? Excitement? Fear? Irritation? Shame? Do you have thoughts like, “Why are you hungry, you just ate!,” I bet you’re going to eat too much again, you have no self-control,” or “You better not eat off the diet, or else.” People who have experienced food scarcity or restrictive dieting may have intense anxious feelings surrounding food and eating. At first it’s best just to notice what comes up (with as little judgement as possible) without taking any action.
After you have a sense of your sensations, thoughts, and feelings surrounding eating, you may notice a shift without having consciously decided to do anything different. You may notice some things you didn’t before, such as when you are ‘no longer hungry’. Someday you may want to experiment with putting the food away at that point, noticing what feelings come up with that choice. You may be able to address your thoughts with self-encouragement instead of self-shaming. And you may be able to practice self-compassion and self-empathy for the intense feelings that surround food.
I created a Conscious Eating Card that you can print and carry with you to assist you in this practice. Please leave a comment below if you would like a copy! For more support with this practice, you can also schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation at 480-360-5484.
How could practicing more awareness around your eating practice support you in having a healthy relationship with food? Leave us a comment and let us know to receive your conscious eating card.