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If you want to be happy, be.

Henry David Thoreau

Why Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a great way to teach kids how to pay attention. Inviting kids to bring awareness to all 5 of their senses is a very concrete experience because the senses are so tangible when eating. Mindful eating also resonates with kids because it can be playful – they love to be asked to listen to a raisin or an apple or even a piece of pizza!

Kids are constantly bombarded with attention zappers – from video games to fast-paced commercials, leaving their minds jumping from one thing to the next. Mindful eating provides an antidote -- through a fun and engaging way to focus on and explore one thing at a time, thus building their attention span.

Kids are also surrounded by unhealthy food and manipulative marketing that encourages their consumption. Mindful eating is a way to support children to learn to develop awareness of how they feel after eating, rather than simply eating on automatic pilot. By learning how they feel after eating, kids may then make healthier food choices – both in content and portion. This is critical when childhood obesity is an epidemic in North America. Mindful Eating is not about dieting, but rather about learning to be present while eating - so critical when over 50% of meals in America are consumed in automobiles - see Food Inc.

Sharing a mindful meal together, away from the distractions and busy demands of everyday life, creates a space for kids and families to be present not only with their food, but with each other as well.

And hey, when parents are encouraging mindful eating with our kids, we are more likely to be reminded to eat mindfully ourselves!

How?

Invite yourself to step into a beginner's mind - you can even pretend you are from another planet and that you are tasked with finding out everything you can about earth. As you eat your food, be as curious as you can to find out as much information as you can. Assume you know nothing about it, except that it is safe to eat!

First, explore the food with your vision. What colours, textures, patterns, etc. can you see? Then move to touch. What textures can you notice? is it hard, soft and squishy? When you notice your mind wandering off the food, just gently bring it back to exploring this morsel.

Slowly lift the food to your lips. What sensations do you notice as you are moving your arm through space? Does anything happen inside your mouth as the food gets closer? You might even take a listen - since we "know nothing" about this food, we can't be sure it doesn't make a sound (you'd be amazed at what people report hearing when trying this out!)

Next, place the food in your mouth and roll it around to all sides with your tongue, noticing any taste sensations. Then slowly bite the food and chew thoroughly before swallowing. As you swallow, you can even bring awareness to sensations of the food traveling into your belly. You may not notice anything, however, the lack of sensation is also something we can pay attention to.

Finally, notice any lingering sensations as the food settles into your belly.

You can reflect on what you noticed - your direct senses of exploring this food.  How is this different from how you usually eat? What might you take from this practice into your daily life?

Nurturing connection, one breath at a time...