Do you ever feel overwhelmed with diet and nutrition advice? One day a food is good for you, the next day it’s bad. “Just tell me what to eat!” you might be saying. Well, take a deep breath and relax, because today we’re going to walk through a 5-minute Mindful Eating Exercise to help you stop stressing and tune into your eating intuition.
So often we try to optimize our nutrition by searching for the right diet. We set out looking for unhealthy foods we can remove, or health-boosting foods we can include in our diet. We focus so much on what we eat, without ever considering how we eat.
To me, this approach is backward.
If we want to change our eating habits for the better, we must first learn to eat intentionally, and attentively. In a world that’s more distracted than ever, that can be hard to do. And when you’re distracted, it’s easy to miss some important details.
With this 5-minute mindful eating exercise you’re going to:
Choose a delicious food (like chocolate)
Slow down to focus on the eating experience
Recognize how it makes you feel
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is a practice where you pay attention to your food and how your body feels while you’re eating. It’s about being present in the moment and savoring all the flavors, textures, and smells of your food.
Rather than counting calories, and following food rules that categorize foods into healthy vs non-healthy, mindful eating helps you to be aware of eating patterns, hone in on physical hunger cues, and build a positive relationship with food that naturally guides you toward nourishing foods.
You can learn more about why mindful eating is important here.
How to Eat Mindfully
Now that you know what mindful eating is let’s discuss how to eat mindfully.
This may sound strange, but your body has an inner compass that can help you make healthy choices without having to memorize abstract food rules. But, to notice your compass, you have to first slow down, pause and listen.
Here are a few tips to help you eat mindfully with any meal:
Notice how your body feels before, during, and after eating
Take small bites and chew slowly
Focus on the flavors, textures, and smells of your food
Notice the physical sensations that occur as you eat
Be fully aware of any emotions you feel while eating
As you practice these steps to mindful eating, you’ll develop more awareness of your food choices, and develop a positive relationship with food that makes you feel great instead of feeling guilty.
With all that said, let’s put mindful eating into practice with a simple eating exercise.
A 5-Minute Mindful Eating Exercise with Chocolate
Rather than just reading through this exercise, try it for yourself. After all, it’s only 5 minutes. And maybe you’ll learn something about yourself in the process.
For this exercise, you will need:
A piece of chocolate
A comfortable place to sit
1) Get a Piece of Chocolate (or something else delicious)
For this exercise, I recommend buying something really special. Go to the store and find the best-looking chocolate bar you can find. This is your chance to spoil yourself. Spend the extra dollar.
What sounds good to you? Get it.
2) Sit Down at a Table and Set Your Timer for 5-Minutes
Next, you’re going to sit down at a table with the chocolate bar wrapped in front of you. Then set your timer for 5 minutes.
3) Close Your Eyes and Breath
Sitting at the table, close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths. Feel each breath as it enters your nose and fills your lungs. Notice how the air feels as you exhale.
4) Notice How You Feel
Try to notice how your body feels as you sit waiting to eat the chocolate bar sitting in front of you. Are you feeling hungry? Stressed? Tired?
Maybe you even feel guilty about eating a piece of chocolate. Or, maybe you’re excited to eat this delicious piece of chocolate.
Try to just notice the thoughts or feelings that arise for you, and then dismiss them. You don’t need to dwell on them or analyze them.
5) Open Your Eyes and Examine the Chocolate
What does the wrapper look like? What color is it? Pick up the food and feel its weight in your hand.
Next, open the chocolate bar, paying careful attention to the sound of the wrapper as you do.
6) Smell the Chocolate
Hold the food close to your nose and smell it. What aromas do you notice?
7) Take a Small Bite of Chocolate
Start with just one small piece of chocolate. Bite into it and then let it melt in your mouth. Notice how the texture changes. Notice the flavor of the chocolate. Is it bitter? Salty? Sweet?
Are there other subtle flavors you wouldn’t normally have noticed?
Notice each flavor before swallowing.
8) Pause Before Taking a Second Bite
Before you take a second bite, pause and think about how you feel. What did you notice about that first bite? How did it make you feel? Did you feel satisfied? Are you hungry? Are you excited to slowly explore more flavors with another piece?
Continue to eat the chocolate slowly, and mindfully, taking one small bite at a time. As you eat, pay attention to any emotions or thoughts that come up for you.
When the timer goes off, take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel.
What Did You Notice By Eating Mindfully?
Now it’s time to reflect on your experience. Consider the following questions, and if you’re feeling open, share what you learned below in the comments.
How did it feel to eat mindfully?
What emotions or thoughts came up for you while eating?
Did mindful eating help you appreciate the chocolate more?
What did you learn about yourself from this exercise?
A Note on Distraction
If you find yourself getting distracted when doing this exercise, don’t worry. Just notice the distraction and bring your attention back to the mindful eating exercise.
Remember, the goal of this exercise is to build awareness. You don’t need to analyze your eating behaviors or thoughts. Just notice them, and then come back to the present moment.
The Benefits of Mindful Eating
So, if you’ve read through all of this, and completed the mindful eating exercise above, you might be wondering: “what’s the point in all of this?”
Aside from helping you enjoy eating, without feeling guilty, there are several science-backed benefits of mindful eating.
Improves Digestion and Absorption – Mindful eating has been shown to improve digestion with one study showing a decrease in bloating and gas.
Helps Prevent Overeating – It can take your brain up to 20 minutes to register that you’re full. When you’re paying attention to your food, you’re more likely to eat slowly and savor each bite. This gives your body time to catch up to satiety signals, helping to reduce overeating.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety – Mindful eating has been shown to help reduce stress. One study showed that participants who ate mindfully had a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.
Improved Blood Sugar Control – Mindful eating has been shown to help improve blood sugar control. One study showed that participants who ate mindfully had a decrease in their glycemic response.
Lowered Blood Pressure – Mindful eating has been shown to help lower blood pressure. One study showed that participants who ate mindfully had a decrease in their systolic blood pressure.
Reduce Portion Sizes and Aid in Weight Loss – Mindful eating has been shown to help people lose weight. One study showed that participants who ate mindfully had a decrease in their body mass index (BMI).
Eat Mindfully Anywhere, with Any Food
Mindful eating is a great way to become more aware of your eating habits and learn to listen to your body’s inner cues. By paying attention to the flavors, textures, and smells of your food, as well as how your body feels while you’re eating, you can eat more mindful meals that are both satisfying and nutritious.
Best of all, mindful eating is a practice that can be done with any food, at any time. Try it out the next time you eat, and let me know what you think!