Eat With Your Senses

August 5, 2009

If there’s one activity that occurs the most throughout the day, every day, it has to be eating. Between breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, there is very little time in which food does not play a starring role. Because it occurs so often, eating can become very mindless — it’s something you know you have to do, and often in a busy day it’s done without much thought and attention. And for some people, perhaps yourself included, eating is an emotional response. That is why mindful eating is so important.

The Center for Mindful Eating defines mindful eating as “a state of being aware. It is a process of observation and attention in the flow of changing stimuli and perceptions. Mindfulness is ‘in the moment,’ present, engaged awareness. An important characteristic of a mindful state is that it is free of judgment. Also, mindfulness is not a passive state; we apply intention when we are mindful.” Being mindful when you eat requires you to use all your senses. Most people understand that you use sight, smell, and taste; however, it’s important to realize that you also use the senses of hearing and touch when you sit down to a meal.

Using all your senses helps you slow down at meal time, which allows you to recognize your hunger and fullness cues. To eat with your senses requires you to take the following steps:

  1. Look. Take in the color and shape of the food. Is it bright or dull? Does it looked grilled or fried? Is it flat or round?
  2. Smell. Your sense of smell is closely tied to sense of taste. Does the smell remind you of something from your childhood? Does it smell fresh?
  3. Taste. Cut a piece of food, put it in your mouth, and let it rest on your tongue before chewing. Then allow yourself to chew your food before swallowing to fully appreciate the flavor in the food. Can you tell what seasonings were used? Do you like the way it tastes? Is it salty, sweet, or tart?
  4. Feel. As you’re tasting, explore the texture of the food. Is it chewy, crunchy, grainy, or smooth? Is it hot or cold? If it’s something you eat with your hands, like a piece of fruit or a cracker, is it light or heavy? Dry or wet?
  5. Listen. You may not realize that food has a sound, but as you eat you can hear whether the food is crunchy (like a carrot), mushy (like applesauce), or slurpy (like soup).

Using your senses and answering the questions above will help you to slow down at meals and allow your body to tell you, rather than the other way around, whether you’ve had enough to eat.

Do you try to eat mindfully? If so, what works for you?

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