Plate of chicken wings, mashed potato and red cherry tomatos

Can you practice mindfulness while eating? Takeaways from a mindfulness workshop

This blog post is written by guest blogger Mary Cortinas (she/her), a Healthy UCrew Ambassador and first-year nursing student. Mary completed her HBSc in Nutrition and Human Biology at U of T.

           Mindfulness is a word that has been more prevalent in the past few years, but what is it? To practice mindfulness is to be aware of our environment, thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness has been linked to lower stress, improved emotional regulation, and improves one's ability to be flexible and adaptable –the last of which I didn’t know until recently! Today, people are incorporating it into their daily lives, to cope through stressful situations, as a daily practice and even as a part of cognitive therapy. However, I didn’t know that you can also apply mindfulness to eating. I recently graduated U of T with a major in Nutritional Sciences, but mindful eating was not mentioned in any of my courses. I couldn’t comprehend how this was possible, so I attended Health & Wellness’ Mindful Eating: Food and Mood program.

A blue sky with white and dark clouds over a lake.

           At first, I was skeptical about how mindfulness can be applied to eating since most people don’t really think too much about eating. However, as the session went on, I noticed that I was already practicing some of the lessons taught! I just had to be more aware of that. Two takeaways I found helpful were to plan ahead and to listen to my body when I feel hungry. As a working university student myself, it isn’t always easy to do this. However, this class made me think back to times when I did plan my meals ahead and how helpful it was in saving time during the week and eating healthy options instead of reaching for faster but less nutritious snacks. So, I’ve restarted planning meals on Sunday with my sister and it has really helped me buy less fast food outside and keep a balanced diet most days.

            During the session, we participated in the chocolate meditation. Each person had a piece of chocolate to examine with our senses. We took time going through the senses. We smelled the chocolate, observed the shape of the piece, put it in our mouth and just on the tongue to sense the taste, and then swallowed it once it melted. Throughout this exercise, it’s important to recognize when your mind starts to wander and to reflect on why that may be the case. Practicing exercises like this can help ground you when you’re feeling overwhelmed, can be used to satisfy cravings and help you better incorporate this during meals or snacks.

A brown chocolate bar packaging that reads "Cacao is the food of the Gods"

           Okay, but why do we care about mindful eating? Better nutrition has been long associated with better physical and mental health. When you have a balanced diet, your brain and body have the nutrients to function well and participate in daily activities which are important to all people especially students who study, work, hang out with friends, and participate in hobbies they enjoy. Burnout is a problem that many students face, and being more aware of what you eat, and what your body needs can be a part of mitigating some of these feeling. Mindfulness is about self-compassion and this is an often neglected idea because of how busy people can get and each individual’s life experiences. If you’re intrigued by the idea of mindfulness, check out the Health & Wellness programs specifically about mindfulness!

A screenshot of a Sound Cloud podcast called The Basic Mindful Eating Meditation by Shambhala Publications


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