‘Tis the season to overindulge. It seemed as though everywhere I turned this week, I was faced with tempting sweets. Toffee & sea salt chocolate bars, red velvet cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, four-layer chocolate cake with peppermint frosting, trays of Christmas cookies. It was like I had traveled to the Land of the Sweets a la The Nutcracker (which, actually, would be my dream world). I was more than halfway through a slice of the aforementioned mint chocolate cake (to be fair, I had cut a piece that was only 2 layers), when I realized I had long ago passed my satiation point for sweet, chocolatey satisfaction. Had I taken time to really savor what I was eating, I probably would have needed only a few bites of rich cake to be satisfied.
Enter mindful eating.
Mindful eating is offered as one way to practice mindfulness. First, a word about mindfulness. At a very basic level, mindfulness is a state of present-moment awareness. As taught in Full Catastrophe Living, it involves cultivating several basic attitudes, including non-judging, non-striving, beginner’s mind, and present-moment focus. One exercise that many people practice when learning about mindfulness is the raisin exercise. It’s really amazing the things I never noticed about raisins before I did this exercise for the first time. In fact, we all probably have missed a lot about foods because we so seldom take time to sit and really enjoy them. Whether it’s eating lunch quickly at our desks (often while we continue to work on other things) or hastily inhaling some decadent food before we can feel too guilty about eating it, we are depriving ourselves of a chance to truly appreciate the experience of eating. When applied to mealtimes, mindfulness encourages us to slow down and be open to the entire experience, paying attention to the sights, smells, texture, and taste of food, as well as our bodies as we eat. Thus, it is eating mindfully rather than mindlessly.
This approach sometimes is used as a tool for weight loss, as it allows people to be more attuned to their feelings of hunger vs. satiation. However, it is not a dieting strategy. It is an approach to something we do every day and often take for granted. Eating mindfully allows for a much richer interaction with the food we eat. For many people, it can be another way to find pleasure in the small things in life. The next time you sit down for a meal or even just a cup of coffee, allow yourself to enjoy the experience for the first few bites or sips. Really take time to notice what you are putting into your body. Notice the complexity of aroma, texture, and taste. Maybe you’ll find it’s something you want to practice more often.