Introduction to Mindful Eating

When was the last time you ate something quickly? Did you feel a little indigestion or even bloating afterwards? Did you stop to wonder if you’d even chewed your food? What did it even taste like?

We call this ‘mindless eating’ and unfortunately, these experiences are all too common as our lives become busier and more demanding.

Take a moment to reflect on a time when you may have eaten mindlessly. This often happens when your brain is on autopilot, for example, as you quickly scoff your own breakfast while you finished packing school lunches or as you throw down lunch in the short time between meetings, sitting at your desk, staring at your computer screen.

Mindless eating can have negative consequences for us in a number of ways and in this IGA Family Program module, we’ll explore how you can adopt a more mindful approach to eating for both yourself and your family.

As we unpacked for you in the previous IGA Family Program module, mindfulness can be explored both formally and informally.

Through the Smiling Mind app, we have a number of formal mindfulness meditations for Adults and Children which will allow you and your family to explore food through your senses, inviting you to see, smell, hear, feel, and taste food in new and novel ways. You’ll also be asked to observe how the body responds to food, which is an important part of mindful eating.

Mindful Eating meditation

Listen to the activity below.

Why mindful eating?

There are a number of serious health consequences related to food consumption in today’s society which makes taking a more mindful approach to eating even more important.

Obesity is on the rise with close to 11.2 million Australians, including one in four children aged 5-17 years, who are either overweight or obese. Approximately 280 Australians develop diabetes every day and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia are estimated to affect approx. 9% of our population*

Eating is an automatic behaviour. We do it anywhere from 3-8 times a day, and each moment is an opportunity to be more aware. One of the best ways to practice informal mindfulness for you and your family in the home is through connecting with food through our senses.

Practicing mindful eating actually trains us to be more mindful in our lives generally, and this can lead to stress reduction and increased wellbeing. If we slow down when we eat, we can slow down in life and interact with our colleagues or family differently.

Our thoughts and emotions can cloud our awareness and distort our relationship with food. That’s what we can unravel through mindful eating.

Here’s a short ‘taster’ to get you started on your mindful eating journey, using a raisin or a fresh piece of fruit (with no rind):

1

Holding

First, take the raisin or piece of fruit and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb. Focus on it as if you have just landed from outer space and have never seen an object like this before
2

Seeing:

Take time to really see it; gaze at the piece of food with care and full attention. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.
3

Touching

Turn the piece of food over between your fingers, exploring its texture, maybe with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch
4

Smelling

Holding the food beneath your nose, with each inhalation drink in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise, noticing as you do this anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.
5

Placing

Now slowly bring the food up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the object in the mouth, without chewing, noticing how it gets into the mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments exploring the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.
6

Tasting

When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin or piece of fruit, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take a bite of it and notice what happens in the aftermath. Notice the surge of flavour as you chew. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in the mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment, as well as any changes in the object itself.
7

8

Swallowing

When you feel ready to swallow, see if you can first detect the urge to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously.
9

Following

Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how the body is feeling as a whole, after completing this exercise in mindful eating

Remember, an important part of practicing mindfulness with your children is debriefing each experience or activity to normalise any physical or emotional reactions they may have had. Here’s a few questions that might help from the activity.

  1. What was that like?
  2. Did you notice a feeling of hunger? If so, where in your body did you notice it?
  3. What did you notice when you had the food in your hand?
  4. Were you surprised by the experience?
  5. Is that the best that piece of food has ever tasted?
  6. Where do you think this piece of food come from?

*The core objective of the IGA Family Program Mindful Matters and Smiling Mind is to teach you and your family a life skill; one that will help to manage stress, increase awareness of negative emotional states, improve attention and focus, and help prevent mental health issues in later life.