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Mindful Eating – do it…it tastes better!

23 April 2014

Mindful Eating

As the world becomes faster and faster, and people work longer hours and lead busier lives, we often snatch time from wherever we can.  This can mean that we eat lunch working at our desks, or as we rush from meeting to meeting.  Or busy mums may grab a drive thru meal and gulp it down in-between children's football practice and violin lessons.

Wolfing down a chicken schnitzel focaccia at your desk whilst finishing off that PowerPoint presentation – it’s almost as if you haven't eaten at all.  Or talking your way through a business development meal at a swanky restaurant:  who focuses on the food?

You've probably got no recollection of the actual act of eating.  You don't remember the taste, you aren't sure it even tasted good.  And you don’t know if the quantity you ate was just right for your needs.  (Judging by the size of sandwiches prepared at cafes – it was probably way bigger than you needed) But it has filled a gap – a hole that needed filling.

And when you get home in the evening, dinner can be a takeaway meal or pizza eaten on the sofa in front of the TV.  It certainly fills you up, but is it satisfying?  Do you savour every mouthful?  Are you aware when you are comfortably full, or do you just keep eating until the pizza box is empty (or the program has finished)?  And then, when it is difficult to get up off the couch, here comes good old guilt and shame.   How's that working for you?

Mindful eating is the process of being completely present when you eat.  Don't worry - It doesn't require sitting cross-legged on the floor and chanting whilst chewing! It's about becoming more aware of what you are eating.  And it requires a change to both your way of thinking and your current habits.  All permanent change does.

By being more aware of your food, you actually get to taste it.  Do you like it? Or are you eating it just because it's there? And by tasting it, you might find out if it is offering you what you want and need in the way of satisfaction, flavour and quantity.  Slowing down the eating process and being fully present will allow your stomach signals to be clearly heard.  There's another reason for being a mindful eater.  You need to be ready when you get the sensation of just getting comfortable in the stomach. So that you can choose to stop eating.  Otherwise, you'll eat until you're stuffed (or the box is empty) and then 10 – 20 minutes later you'll be so full you'll feel sick and be kicking yourself and loading up on the G & S (guilt and self-recrimination) again.

So mindless eating is an unhelpful behaviour or ineffective habit.  Now that it's identified we can think about how to manage it and make a positive, healthful change.  And if you are aware of what you are eating, and eating things you really like, and enjoying every mouthful you’re eating experiences will be much more satisfying and health supporting. You will become more choosy, and reject food that is too (fill in the blank e.g. salty, bland, greasy, spicy, etc.)

Mindful Eating 1

Pay attention – you are about to be given permission to eat chocolate. 

The original mindful eating exercise is based around a raisin, and others use a slice of apple.  I feel it is in the best interests of science that we use chocolate!  Individual chocolates are ideal – and don’t skimp on quality.


Slowly unwrap the item and gaze upon it for a while, anticipating the pleasure that you will experience when consuming it.

Carefully observe this food item, noticing its appearance; its shape… colour… or colours…its size… and texture. 

Now picking it up with your fingers…notice what it feels like…the textures…temperatures… sensations…

Now bring it to your nose and smell it, deeply… have full awareness of it.  Notice any reactions that your body experiences even though you haven’t begun to eat it…

Slowly place it in your mouth without chewing or swallowing… be aware of its textures…and flavour…perhaps more than one flavour… exploring the sensations of holding this item in your mouth…on your tongue…

Just let it slowly melt in your mouth, without chewing and focus on the tantalising effect it has on your taste buds.  Very slowly, as slowly as possible…experience the tastes as you begin to chew…noticing the sounds of the chewing, being fully aware…

And then when you are ready, swallowing and following the taste as long as you can as it goes down your throat…noticing any lingering tastes…and sensations…

Rather than on the auto-pilot of mechanically eating without full awareness…as you eat mindfully…you put all of your attention and awareness on this one thing you are doing.

Excerpt from the forthcoming e-course “Eat THINK and Be Merry” by Christina Derbyshire (

Mindful eating exercise adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn. Fully Catastrophe Living; Delta Trade Paperbacks 1990.