Christmas and New Year is just over, Chinese New Year is around the corner. What first comes to your mind when you think about CNY? Besides visiting relatives and receiving (or giving) Ang Pao, what you can’t miss is the food. With all the sinful snacks…Bak Kua, pineapple tarts, mini spring rolls, and now comes popular salted egg fish skin and chips…how can you resist temptation to eat more? How to enjoy your favourite snacks without guilt? The secret is mindful eating.
Here are some tips for mindful eating:
If you are watching TV or talking to relatives, and realise your hand has automatically reached out to the food, or the food has almost reached your mouth, remember to pause and take a moment (a few seconds) to turn attention towards the snack, look at it mindfully, asking yourself: “is this what I really want to eat?”
Once you interrupt your automatic tendency to eat mindlessly, expand your awareness to glance at the whole range of snacks in front of you (I am sure there will be many), and see what options are available.
2. Exercise your power of choice
Exercise your power of choice by taking a slow breath, tuning into your body, and asking yourself: “which food is calling you right now?”, “what does my body feel like eating now?”, “sweet or savory?”. Pick the snack that is most appealing to you.
3. Eat mindfully
Even you’re busy watching TV or talking to relatives, you can still choose to spend a few moments with the food you’ve chosen and eat it mindfully with your five senses. You can choose to pay attention to all senses, or just some of the senses (if you got to quickly divert your attention to others during CNY gatherings):
- See the food, investigating its shape, size, and color with curiosity, as if you are seeing it for the first time
- Touch the food, feeling its texture (with hands and tongue)
- Smell the food, fully enjoying the fragrance of the snack
- Taste the food, taking small bits and chewing it slowly, and swallowing the food only when you’ve extracted every single flavor from the food, obvious or subtle.
- Hear the food, paying attention to the sound when you eat or slowly chew the snack, e.g., crispy sound when you eat chips, and chewy sound when you eat Bah Kua.
4. Savour the experience
After you finish eating the first piece, take some time to savor the whole experience of eating that one piece of snack. Notice the aftertaste in the mouth, how satisfied your stomach and the whole body feels after taking in this small piece of your favorite snack. Also take some time to appreciate and express gratitude to whoever made the snack available to you.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 for your next bite (second piece of snack).
You may choose the same snack, or a different snack, and notice how it is same or different from your first bite (first piece of snack). Soon you may realise you reach peak satisfaction much faster than you expected, with much smaller amount of snacks. Your wisdom will also tell you when to stop, as with conscious awareness and power of choice, you are no longer munching food mindlessly.
Try this mindful eating exercise, discover the wisdom of “Eat Less, Enjoy More”.
The Joy of Half a Cookie – using mindfulness to lose weight and end the struggle with food> by Jean Kristeller, PhD with Alisa Bowman