Use this mindful eating exercise to compassionately explore your current eating habits and find out what works and what doesn’t for you.
Do you ever feel like eating well that is still not entirely natural and consistent for you?
- You may find that you are always hungry or have cravings.
- Or maybe you know that in the afternoon you can’t stop snacking.
- Or that you feel tired and sluggish all day.
However, what you can’t seem to figure out is how to determine exactly what is actually causing these feelings and behaviors.
If you do not know exactly what is causing your block or challenge, you cannot find possible solutions and better measures for self-support.
The first step when you notice that you are struggling with your eating habits or that you want to improve them in some way is to practice this mindful eating exercise that will help you become more aware of your eating habits so that you can be more clear about the eating habits have kind of support that you need.
These insights can help you figure out where you might need more supportive practices, or what works really well, that you can expand on, so that you can be completely confident about what is best for you.
How this exercise will help you
You may be wondering what exactly this exercise will help me?
Here is an example from one of our members of the Mindful Nutrition Method ™ program, Kelsey.
At the time, Kelsey was a busy law student studying for exams, balancing part-time work, internship, and leisure.
After doing this exercise, she found that one thing that really affected her day was that she was barely eating due to stress and was so focused while studying.
When she went to the library, she didn’t have any food with her unless it was a quick protein bar and she realized she’d been without food for hours. When she got home in the evening, she felt uncomfortably hungry, which led to overeating and craving for less nutritious foods.
With that knowledge, she was then able to use the tools and practices we teach her to compassionately respond to the eating habits that did not support her and create the right thing mindful eating Habits for their needs.
It is so important to raise awareness about your eating habits to find the best actions, practices, tools, and support you need in order to embody what you want to experience with food.
How to use this mindful eating exercise
This is an exercise in what I call compassionate curiosity. It is designed to help you get curious about why something may be, while remaining compassionate, not judgmental, with yourself.
The most important thing to keep in mind while working on this exercise is to practice nonjudgment. There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong”. The purpose is to simply raise awareness of your current habits so that you can better support yourself – without shame, guilt, or self-judgment.
It can be helpful to record the answers to these questions for 5 to 7 days. That way, you can look back on the entire week and look for patterns.
1. Why did you eat?
The first question is why did you eat?
Often we eat because we are hungry and can feel the physical hunger in our body.
At the same time, we often eat for different reasons because so many different factors influence our food choices.
For example, you may be eating because you are stressed or bored. You can also eat when you are in a social situation where food is involved. Or it could be that you see something around you (like snacks on the counter) that causes you to reach for that food, even when you are not physically hungry.
There are so many different reasons you have eaten and none of them are right or wrong. Yes, we want our physical hunger to guide our decisions. What is more important, however, is that you make an intentional decision.
If you’ve just had dinner but want dessert because you’re celebrating someone’s birthday, you may not be physically hungry. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the cake, but you are making a deliberate decision to have the cake because you are celebrating rather than unwittingly choosing the cake when you really don’t want it.
2. What did you eat?
The next question to think about is what did you eat? This should not be used here to track calories or measure specific portion sizes.
What you are looking for is simply to raise awareness of the types of foods you have eaten to see if you have been able to get the nutrition you need. This also shows if you have been able to practice balance throughout the day by highlighting whether you have also had foods that you like, even if they are not nutrient-rich.
The goal is not to eat cleanly, but to find a balance.
3. Why did you choose to eat what you did?
Next, ask yourself why you made the food choices that you made.
Did you make these decisions because you needed food? Or because you really enjoy it? Has an old rule from the diet that you have tried affected you in any way?
Here are some examples:
- You may find that you just had lunch and wanted something nourishing so that you felt energized throughout the afternoon and into the evening. So you’ve decided on a nutritious bowl full of vegetables, quinoa, tofu, vegetables and your favorite dressing.
- Perhaps you had a frozen meal for dinner because you were exhausted from the day and didn’t feel like cooking
- Or maybe you really longed for pasta for dinner but decided against it because you heard that you shouldn’t eat carbohydrates in the evening.
These sound different with each meal. So, research what really influenced your food choices and notice what influences you.
It could be old diet rules, it could be your mood or energy level, it could be a lack of time or inspiration for what to do. See what’s in store for you.
4. How did you feel?
Next, think about how you felt after eating.
Notice the physical sensations in your body.
- Did you feel satisfied or were you hungry an hour later?
- Did you eat too much and feel uncomfortable?
- Has something you eat upset your stomach or made you feel low on energy?
- Did you like what you ate?
- Did you feel guilty after eating?
Finding how this feels really good for your unique body and what doesn’t feel good to you can help you feel more confident about making decisions for yourself.
5. When did you eat?
The next thing to think about during this mindful eating exercise is when you ate.
Knowing the different times of the day you are eating can help uncover patterns such as: For example, how filling a meal is, or whether you are always hungry at a certain time of the day, or whether you are more likely to eat at a certain time of the day out of boredom or stress (or other factors).
6. Where did you eat?
Where you ate is another important factor to explore.
While life is not always perfect, and there will be times when you just cannot sit down to eat at the table, discovering where you eat most often and how it affects your decisions can give you some insight into your habits .
7. How did you eat?
Finally, what adjectives would you use to describe the way you ate at that meal?
Were you slow and conscious Hurried? Distracted?
Again, nothing is perfect and it is not always possible to be in a completely slow and present mindset while eating. However, if you find yourself eating in ways that most often do not feel fully present, you can look for ways to add a little more mindfulness so that you can experience your meal.
What to think about after a mindful eating exercise
After trying this mindful eating exercise for a few days, search your journal and look for patterns.
You may notice that you have breakfast at 9 a.m., but by 10 a.m. you are usually hungry again. This is a sign that you may need a bigger breakfast.
Or maybe you notice that whenever you are around candy you feel out of control and tend to overindulge yourself. This is likely a sign that you have been too restrictive and may need to practice more balance.
Uncovering the patterns in your eating habits is the first step, but it will take time, patience, guidance, and support to know exactly how to address these patterns and develop new, more supportive eating habits.
That’s exactly what we’re here for. When you’re ready to embody balance and consistency with your eating habits, you can join our free workshop to walk you through the Mindful Nutrition Method ™ to help you achieve it.