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The Mindful Eating Test

You may not be able to mindfully eat at every single meal but for the duration of this challenge, try to do this test at least once per day with at least a few bites of your meal or snack. This excerpt below is taken from Judson Brewer MD PhD, a thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery”, and author of The Craving Mind. Good luck! 

Today we’re not going to focus on “what” you’re eating, we’re going to focus on “how” you’re eating. Remember, mindful eating isn’t about restriction or rules.

  1. Find a food you’d like to use for the exercise. Make sure you can hold it in your hand (not a liquid or something you need a utensil to eat). 
  2. Pick up the piece of food and look at it. Imagine you’re a scientist who just discovered this food and want to know everything about it. Look at it carefully. What do you see? Is it smooth or textured? How does the light hit it? What else do you notice? Turn it over on your palm or in your fingers. How does it feel? Is it heavy or light? Rough or soft? How do your fingers feel touching it? Let your eyes explore every part of it. While you’re doing this, you may be getting some thoughts popping into your head, like “this is weird” or “what is the point of this” or even “there is no way this is going to help.” Those are totally natural. Simply note them as thoughts (or even thank your brain for having them) and return back to paying attention to the food in your hand.
  3. Next, bring the food up under your nose and inhale.  Smell the object, not just once, but for several breaths. How does it smell? Do any other sensations arise?
  4. Now bring the object to your mouth. Notice how your hand and arm move automatically to move the food to your lips. Pause for a moment with the food at your lips. Notice if your mouth is starting to water.
  5. Now, gently take the first bite of food. Don’t chew — just notice how it is “received” by your mouth. Explore the sensations of having it in your mouth. How does it feel on your tongue? Your teeth?
  6. Now bring your attention to the taste. What does it taste like? Can you tell where on your tongue you feel the taste?
  7. Now start to slowly chew the food. Notice any additional tastes that are released. Feel the food changing in consistency and the increase in saliva in your mouth.
  8. Then be aware of the need to swallow. See if you can recognize this before swallowing, and then consciously swallow the food. Pause for a moment to notice the feeling in your mouth of the food not being there. How does it feel? Is there any desire for the remaining piece of food, still in hand?
  9. Now, take your second and last bite. Chew just as slowly and mindfully as before. Is anything different this time? Is it more pleasurable or less? Do you chew and swallow faster than before? Pay attention each moment. See if you can notice sensations in your throat or stomach after you swallow.
  10. Once the food is finished, thank yourself for taking the moment to eat mindfully, and for paying attention.

    So… what was that like? When was the last time you ate like that? How do we normally eat — shoveling handfuls of raisins or chips or whatever into our mouths while working, driving, or talking?