Eating is a gift, a gift that often goes unnoticed. Just like walking or driving, it is considered by many to be a profoundly unexciting experience. Most people, most of the time, devour food mindlessly, missing out on what is potentially one of the most satisfying experiences we can have.
People give little attention to consumption, even though, as the common adage goes, “We are what we eat.” So, without mindful eating, you are unlikely to really know yourself.
What is Mindful Eating
Mindful eating in addiction treatment or at home is an opportunity for great joy, a chance to be focused on the present moment as you consume each meal.
The most common example is eating a piece of fruit, like a tangerine or clementine. Consider the following steps:
- Find a quiet and well-lit location where you can be away from distractions, sitting comfortably. This can be done in a meditation space, at the kitchen table, or on the sofa.
- Take the tangerine and close your eyes. Use your palms and fingers to touch the surface of the fruit, paying close attention to what you notice, like the shape, the irregular bumps, or crevices. Notice whether your food feels cool or warm in some places more than others. Pay attention to the food’s smoothness or roughness and hardness or softness.
- Hold the food to your nose and feel it with your nose and lips. Smell it and notice your reaction to the scent. Is it unpleasant for you? Does it make you hungrier? Does it conjure memories?
- Hold the tangerine about a forearm’s length away from your face and observe it with your open eyes. Note its color, how light reflects on the surface, and how bright or shadowed it is. See where the fruit once hung on the tree.
- Consider how unique this particular food is, just as the moment in which you are observing it is unique. You might even take a moment to consider where it came from, how it was one of thousands of tangerines on a tree, perhaps somewhere in Asia or in California, maybe even in Mexico. From there, you might consider how many generations that same tree has produced fruit for other people to enjoy.
- Notice the feel and smell as you open the tangerine. As you peel the fruit, notice the changes in texture, temperature, and pressure from your hands.
- Finally, as you eat one piece at a time, pay attention to how the fruit feels resting on your tongue, how it changes as you bite into it, and what it feels like as you chew and swallow.
Now, when using mindful recovery in addiction treatment, you may not follow each of these steps. If you are eating soup for dinner, you obviously don’t want to try and hold elements of the soup in your hand, but you can still smell it or notice the texture when you consume it.
For some people, the start of mindful eating in addiction treatment is as simple as chewing each bite ten times before swallowing and then putting the fork, knife, or spoon down in between bites. This type of mindfulness can help you slow down, pay attention to what you are eating and how it makes you feel, and avoid overeating or eating things that don’t leave you satiated and feeling healthy at the end of the day.
Benefits of Mindful Eating in Addiction Recovery
Mindful eating reveals the possibilities available to you for using the ordinary experience of eating to deepen your awareness and make more sustainable choices. Benefits include:
- Mindful eating can help you avoid binge eating
- Mindful eating in addiction recovery can help circumvent emotional eating
- Mindful eating in addiction treatment helps you address situations where you eat in response to external cues, not because you’re actually hungry
- Mindful eating can address weight management
- Mindful eating increases awareness of internal cues that you need food and what types of food you need
- Mindful eating can address harmful eating behaviors that may have been associated with addiction
Don’t concern yourself with eating this way for every meal; it is simply not possible for most of us. But that doesn’t mean the lessons learned can’t be incorporated into daily life.
Set goals like practicing mindful eating for one meal each week.
As you notice the benefits, you might increase mindful eating sessions. You might choose to practice mindful eating alone, in which case you could take your lunch to a nearby park or outdoor seating area.
Mindful Eating in Recovery
During a typical day, mindful eating in addiction treatment goes a long way toward helping nourish the body and mind. Mindful eating in addiction treatment goes a long way toward helping nourish the body and mind, and with the right foods in the right quantities, you can give your body essential nutrients to strengthen the immune system and neurological functions. Doing so restores balance, erases damage done by drug and alcohol abuse, and puts you in a better position to recover.