If eating past the point of fullness has become a frequent occurrence, the following practice is a helpful way to kick-start more intentional eating habits while truly savoring food!
👋 Hi there – before reading, know that overeating happens to everyone. It’s something I work on everyday. When it happens, I forgive myself and move on. I share this as an open and honest way to say we are all human, and we are all in this together.
🍬 The candy bowl
After dinner one night, I was craving M&Ms. I took a handful, put them in a bowl and thought it seemed like the right amount. I turned on a show and started eating.
At some point, I didn’t really want anymore, but I kept going anyway. While my mind was tuned into the TV, I stopped thinking about what I was eating. Subconsciously, I pushed past fullness cues and finished the bowl.
I didn’t feel great afterwards. Did I give myself too many? Were my estimations totally off? Most likely, I simply wasn’t paying attention.
🎧 Listening to our bodies
Even though I have no medical restrictions, I spent most of my 20’s closely monitoring how much I ate. I frequently pushed away feelings of hunger so that I could stay on the food plan I was following.
In many ways, it’s easier to rely on servings sizes or diet plans than it is to listen to our bodies. This is not to say guidance from others isn’t helpful or necessary – especially in the setting of food allergies or a chronic illness requiring medical nutrition therapy – but there’s a limit to how much insight someone else has about our own bodies.
Balancing advice with our own needs can be tricky because every day is different depending on activity and energy levels, holidays, or the weather–to name a few! The onus is on us to make adjustments in our eating patterns based on these daily variables.
As many of us know, this is not easy. I still work on it every day, and clearly there are times when I’m not present or I don’t feel like tuning in to my needs. There is truly an art to eating…
🤝 Restoring trust in our own feelings about eating
To begin re-building that connection, consider starting with a mindful eating exercise. It helps to identify what we truly like (or don’t like!) about certain foods, especially those we avoid out of concern we may overeat them.
The exercise is most effective when done during a quiet time of day, when you’re not hungry or full (somewhere in the middle), and there are no other distractions. It will take about 5 minutes.
🍽 Based off the iEAT Scripted Activity.
1. If trying this as a first time exercise, I recommend using a Hershey’s Kiss because it’s a 1-2 bite food and is individually wrapped which makes sitting down to eat a more involved process. But it can be done with any fun sized candy, clementine, or other snack that can be pre-portioned. The more you do this, the easier it will be to apply to other foods and meals.
2. Start by simply looking at the food before unwrapping. Check out the package colors, how it feels in your hand. If it’s something like a potato chip, what does it feel and sound like to reach into the bag? Mentally describe the item, as if you were telling someone about an object they have never seen before.
3. Unwrap it, or pull it out of the bag, carefully.
4. Hold the food in your palm. Look at it, smell it, and notice the details about the shape.
5. What does it smell like – notes of spices or flavorings? Maybe smells conjure up thoughts or feelings not related to the food? There are no right answers, just notice.
6. Take a bite and chew slowly. Is it soft, crunchy, mushy, sticky, firm? Again, there’s no right description, just observe.
7. Think about the tastes and textures you are experiencing, as well as the mouthfeel from start to finish – does the texture change? Does the aroma change? What does it feel like on your tongue and teeth?
8. Swallow and feel the food slide down your throat. Take a few deep breaths as you consider this feeling and remain present. If you want to try again, take a second bite and repeat steps 6 &7.
This practice may be enjoyable and satiating, or perhaps the food is not as exciting as anticipated.
🍫 I tried this activity for the first time with a Hershey’s Kiss–it was a candy I had previously restricted for fear it would be so good I couldn’t control myself–and was surprised by my neutral reaction to it. It was not nearly as good as I thought it would be.
😌 The experience de-escalated my concerns of overeating it in the future because I was able to truly taste and feel the experience as opposed to popping it in my mouth for the sheer thrill of it.
🎩 While this exercise will not miraculously change all our thoughts and feelings about food, it’s a good place to start. And with frequent practice, it can enhance our confidence in and awareness of our hunger and satiety cues.
Listening to our bodies while we eat is more challenging than it sounds. Mindful Eating is the practice of being present and engaged while eating. Mindful eating exercises help us reconnect (or maintain the connection) with our hunger and satiety cues by placing full attention and awareness of the experience of the food in the moment, without judgment.
If you have tried this exercise, please let us know how it played out in the comments section below!