Mindful Eating Experiments

By Alice Boyes, PhD. | Uncategorized

Mindful eating experiments are useful for people who are trying to lose weight. They’re simple and not time consuming.

Mindful eating involves paying attention to the sensory experience of eating while you’re eating and mentally describing it to yourself as you eat. Mindful eating is different from savoring – which is something people are commonly confused by. Mindful eating is more descriptive and non-judgmental. For example you would usually describe the sensation of biting through the skin of a grape, rather than evaluating it as good or bad.

Probably the best way to understand mindful eating is to read the following description of the instructions for the all-time classic mindful eating experiment: Eating 3 raisins. To read, you will need to click the link and you will be taken to the Amazon.com “search inside this book” feature. When you get there, type “raisin” into the search inside this book searchbox and page 103 will come up.

Ideas for Mindful Eating Experiments

1. The mindful eating raisin exercise.

As described at the link above.

2. Something that seems to work well for my clients is attempting to eat one meal per day completely mindfully (people usually choose lunch or breakfast). You could plan to try this initially for 2 weeks, or any period you like.

3. The compare and contrast mindfulness experiment.

Cut a food item in half (e.g. an apple or a sandwich)
Eat the first half while doing an activity you commonly do while eating e.g. talking, reading, checking email.
Each the second half mindfully.
Afterward, reflect on what was different about the two experiences.

4. Advanced – switching between mindful eating and other activities.

A while back I watched a travel video about Paris that featured two men sitting together eating lunch (a journalist and a local). What struck me was the way the French man alternated between conversation and eating. When he was eating he seems to be absorbed in the experience of eating. When he was talking he seemed to be absorbed in the experience of conversation.

When you’re eating in social settings, try doing each activity mindfully. When you’re having a conversation, focus on the person you’re talking to. When you’re eating, focus on eating. Put your fork down whenever you want to concentrate on conversation to make it easier.

This skill is likely to take a bit of practice.

You could also try this as a compare and contrast experiment e.g. eat one course as you usually would, and eat the next course mindfully.

Notice the difference in the experiences – are both the eating and conversation more rewarding when done mindfully?

When you try mindful eating, your thoughts will probably drift to the future or the past, or to other topics. Your task is to notice that your thoughts have drifted when it happens and gently bring your thoughts back to mindful eating.

If you want to experience change in your thoughts/feelings/behaviours then behavioural experiments are usually the best way to achieve this. Its difficult to predict the impact doing something differently will have on your thoughts/feelings/future behaviour without actually trying it.

Best wishes, Alice.

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