Mindful Living, Mindful Eating: the Art of Being Present

Staying well is always important – now more than ever – but with our never-ending to-do lists it can be a challenge finding time to take care of ourselves. No need to worry, says Amy Exum, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida. She says there are quick and simple techniques you can practice daily, such as mindfulness, that can clearly improve your well-being.

Amy Exum, LMHC, with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida

‘Mindfulness is the art of being present,” Ms. Exum explains. “Studies show mindfulness can help heal our minds and our body, with tangible benefits that include stress and anxiety reduction, improved concentration and attention, and management of chronic pain.”

How do we practice mindfulness? 

“First, know that mindfulness can be as simple as taking a few moments out of your day to slow down,” Ms. Exum advises. “You can incorporate mindfulness in your life through simple activities such as chores. While doing the dishes notice how the water feels, the soap smells and the texture of the plates. Breathe in the scent of grass or trees as you do yard work, or practice mindful eating.”

What is mindful eating?

Amy Kimberlain, RD, CDECS, with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida

“Mindful eating is about awareness and attention of how you are eating, why you are eating and what you are eating,” explains Amy Kimberlain, registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and Care Specialist (CDECS) with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida.

“When we eat mindfully, we pay close attention to details such as the taste, texture and sensations of the food, and we’re in tune with our body’s reactions to the food,” says Ms. Kimberlain. “We may also reflect on where the food came from, who prepared it and whom we are eating with.” 

Ms. Kimberlain adds that mindful eating is a practice or a tool that allows you to purposefully pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. She offers these tips to help you practice being mindful when you eat:

Mindful Eating: Putting it Into Practice

  • Turn off or silence your devices (TV, phone, etc.): The goal is to minimize distractions. Take the time to relax and enjoy your food without all the interruptions.
  • Take a moment to clear your mind: Take a few deep breaths. Pause. We often have so many thoughts racing through our mind that it’s often difficult to not think about other things we have to do. The intent is always to try to be as present as possible. 
  • Use your senses: Mindful eating involves all five senses. Take note of not only the appearance of your food but also its aroma, textures, flavors and even how it sounds.
  • Savor the flavor: As you begin to eat, consider the five basic tastes: bitter, sweet, salty, umami and sour. Are you able to identify which of these flavors your food has? 
  • Notice the texture: Is the food crunchy or creamy? Paying attention to the texture of each bite can help make your eating experience more intentional.
  • Pause between bites: You might be used to eating quickly but mindful eating is the art of being present while you eat. To help slow down your pace, set your utensils down in between bites.

“Mindful eating is a skill that takes practice and time to learn, and it won’t happen at every meal,” Ms. Kimberlain acknowledges. She recommends that you try to enjoy the experience of mindfully nourishing your body “one bite at a time.”

Those interested in learning more about how mindfulness practices can help improve their well-being are invited to join Baptist Health experts at the annual Broward Mental Health Summit, a free virtual event taking place on Thursday, September 9th. Ms. Exum and Ms. Kimberlain will offer activities, insights and tools to help you stay well through the pandemic and the ups and downs of life, according to event organizers.

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