SENSUAL EATING, OUTSIDE THE MOUTH,
INSIDE THE MOUTH
Welcome to Emotional Eating Session II dealing with sensual eating, or eating outside the mouth and inside the mouth.
Let’s just go over the premise of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a return to paying attention to life. And, when we pay attention to our food, and I mean really pay attention, we begin to notice all sorts of wonderful aspects of the food, and more importantly, we become aware of how much food we’re putting into our bodies.
Sensual eating, outside the mouth has to do with touch which is present in eating in many, many ways. The sense of touch informs us from the moment we reach for a fork, spoon, knife, or in the case of finger food, the moment we reach for the food itself. And the experience can be bad as well as good. In the case of a dull knife when you try and cut into a thick piece of meat, guess what? Your eating enjoyment will be less.
Even before taking your first bite, you’re aware of other touch-based information. You will feel a food’s weight, for example a bite of chocolate is heavier than a kernel of popcorn. A spoonful of peanut butter weighs more than a spoonful of rice.
As our sensual eating moves inside the mouth we’re about the texture of food. Here are some possibilities and examples:
- Smooth (yogurt)
- Bumpy (cracker)
- Chewy (dried fruit)
- Crunchy (pita chips)
- Grainy (hummus)
- Creamy (pudding)
- Crumbly (certain cheeses)
Interestingly enough, touch helps us to push food to the various parts of our mouths for chewing and to orient it so that we can swallow. Without our mindfulness we take all this for granted as we’ve done for so many meals and snacks. Come back to all these sensations and maybe in the beginning, take note of what we are feeling inside and outside our mouths.
Temperature is an important piece of information to the brain. Foods taste different depending on their temperature, and their textures change as well: think of a cold chunk of cheese versus the same cheese heated and melted. Make sure your food is at the right temperature to allow you to enjoy it – no half-heated food!!
As one might expect Flavor is perhaps the most powerfully sensual information we get from eating. The variations are endless and alluring. Our taste buds actually work with our sense of smell and can bring us great pleasure as well as great disgust. Usually only a small part of our consciousness is aware of the flavor of food we eat. It’s just enough to keep us eating. Just imagine if we really paid attention to all the data that taste can bring?
Try this little exercise the next time you’re eating. When you’ve taken a bite of food, check in to see what flavors are there – both bold and subtle:
If you find this exercise difficult to focus on flavor, closing your eyes can make things easier.
We have so much going on in the senses registered through the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth that it can seem almost futile to include the stomach as well. But real satisfaction would be impossible without input from the stomach, which tells us when we have completely fulfilled the need to eat.
One recognizes a delay between the time we are full and the moment we know we are full. To reduce the effect of this phenomenon, check in with your stomach every three or four bites. Don’t start checking in halfway through the meal; you are more likely to forget to check at all. Starting early in the meal allows us to compare later feelings of moderate fullness to feelings of having a relatively empty stomach.
Clear your head and help yourself tune in by taking a deep breath. Compare your feeling of fullness with the level of satisfaction in eating your last bite. In general, pleasure associated with eating a bite of food lessens as the stomach becomes fuller.
Here is a key point for all of us and for all our clients. If we continue to eat with high awareness, our chances of overeating are much less than they are otherwise.
At the point where your meal or snack is done and you stop eating, ask yourself how you feel about you. What is your self-opinion? If you are like most, being aware of the body’s amazing ability to respond to food sensually is very satisfying. And knowing that you have treated your body well – honored your body – throughout the meal or snack helps in developing a culture of self-care that can extend to other areas of our life (like exercising in a healthy way, for example).
A good number of us have a strange psychological reaction to treating ourselves well: “I don’t deserve this. I’m uncomfortable doing this because it feels good, and I’m not supposed to feel good.” And there is a real challenge. It takes a lot of courage to exist outside our comfort zone, whether the ‘extreme’ place is much better than our normal way of being or much worse. Living in a new and better place, and staying there, can be a big adventure.
Working through this exercise in mindful eating can be difficult, but don’t worry. It will take some practice to eat with real awareness, particularly in a culture that works so hard to take our attention away from what we are eating, how much we are eating, and how satisfying it is (or isn’t). Continuing to eat mindfully will make all those distractions very, very boring!
So, let’s take a deep breath every time we sit down to a snack or a meal and remember eat mindfully by enjoying every aspect of our surroundings, sensations and the food. WE DESERVE IT.
Carlotta Robbins is a psychologist and hypnotherapist. She works primarily with weight problems and more importantly those emotions and thoughts that lead to weight gain. If you have any questions, she will be glad to answer them firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her contact us page at www.rejuvenation21now.com/contact.
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