Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

The goal of the weekly Pritikin Challenge is to succeed in your personal wellness goals and strengthen your commitment to the health eating, exercise, and emotional habits you learned during your staywith us.

The last two challenges focused on the benefits of keeping a journal. This week, I’m going to introduce you to Mindful Eating, a technique that can help you gain control over your eating by increasing your awareness of and pleasure in the foods you consume.  Mindful Eating improves your relationship to food and takes aim at mindless eating. Because you will be conscious of eating more slowly, you will also more easily recognize when you’re no longer hungry. 

Mindfulness is living in the here and now and experiencing the present moment without distraction. So many people are living in the past or thinking about the future!  You may eat meals standing up or watching TV!  You may focus on conversations and swallow your food without even tasting it.  Mindless eating packs on the pounds.

After a stay at Pritikin, many guests report that their palate is more sensitive since they’ve decreased their dependence on salt and sugar for flavor! Healthy eating CAN be a pleasurable and sensual experience if you focus on the history, color, texture, smell, and taste of the food you’re eating.

Think of the way connoisseurs taste different wines. For example: they learn about the vineyard and climate where the grapes were grown; they note the rich, ruby or sunny white color; they inhale its scent and sip a small amount slowly, thinking about its qualities; and they are silent during this process, completely focused on their experience of a particular wine..  Mindful Eating follows the very same model! Here’s how you do it:

A Mindful Eating Practice

  1. Pick a fruit of your choice.
  2. Before eating it, think about some basic facts.  For example: how and where it was grown? Did it grow on a tree or a bush?  How long did it take to grow?
  3. Before you eat it, really look at it.  Note its weight, color, texture, shape, skin, and size.
  4. Cut or separate the fruit into bite size pieces or sections.
  5. If you’re eating grapes or small berries, be sure to eat one at a time and eat about 10 of them.(If you’re eating large or medium strawberries, five would be a good portion).
  6. Before you eat the fruit, note its color, examine its texture, and inhale its scent.
  7. Eat the pieces of fruit, the grapes, or the berries one at a time. Chew slowly, and if you swallow one without chewing well, note this too, and try to slow down next time.
  8. You may want to close your eyes from time to time while you’re eating to help you focus on the experience of eating the fruit.  While you’re eating, here are some qualities to focus on:
    • What does it taste like? Is it tart or sweet?  Tangy or mild?
    •  Does every piece taste the same?
    • How would you describe it’s texture? Is it rough or smooth?  Creamy or stringy? Does it change as you’re eating it?
    • Do you notice the scent of the fruit? Is it subtle or strong? Pleasant or neutral;?
    • Is the fruit cold or hot? Very juicy or moist?
    • How does the fruit feel in your mouth?
  9. If stray thoughts come to you, let them go, and bring your attention back to the fruit and your experience of eating it.
  10. When you’ve finished the fruit, remain seated for a minute or two before doing anything else.

Your challenge is to practice Mindful Eating this week. Try it at least once, and aim for twice.  Chances are you’ll find yourself eating more mindfully the rest of the time as well. As you integrate mindful eating into your everyday life, you’ll increase your control over food as well as your enjoyment of healthy eating. What incredible benefits from such a simple practice!

Susan E. Grober, Ph.D.

(P.S. Get a good discussion going! Blog about the challenge with other members.)

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