Brainstorming with a client about how to have a better eating experience, we first talked about apps for troubled eaters—including APPetite, my free Facebook app. Then we discussed how she could put signs on the table she eats on (folded file cards work well) to remind herself to relax and think about hunger, taste, chewing and satiation. She said she’d tried them, but they only helped her sometimes. Ditto listening to music. Finally we hit upon the idea of devising her own recording to encourage her to attune to eating.
Listening to how to eat more mindfully is beneficial in two ways. First, it blocks out other thoughts—ruminations about the past, distractions in the present, and worries about the future. If you’re listening to your own soothing voice and instructive words about eating, there’s less chance you’ll be thinking about other things. Second, it provides the exact thoughts you want to be thinking, the specific messages you want to attend to while you eat. It’s like having me sit next to you and whisper in your ear about: enjoying your meal, relaxing, focusing your thoughts, remembering to chew food well, checking your pace frequently, and making sure to slow down when you accidentally speed up.
Here are suggestions, but, please, make a recording of what would help you. Be sure to talk slowly with compassion and encouragement (rather than lecture or bully). And speak in the second person or use your name (see Positive Self-talk with a Twist).
- “Are you looking forward to what you’re going to eat?”
- “Are you enjoying your meal?”
- “Slow down and taste what you’re eating.”
- “Chew every bite until the flavor is all gone.”
- “Put down your food or utensils between bites and, for goodness sake, breathe.”
- “Are you still hungry?”
- “Are you glad you chose this food to eat?”
- “How do you like the texture of what you’re eating?”
- “Note how hungry you are now compared to how hungry you were when you began.”
- “Does the food taste as good now as it did when you first tasted it?”
- “Stop eating and think about where you might be in terms of fullness or satiation.”
- “You don’t have to finish all your food. Just eat enough for you right now.”
- “Relax and make this a pleasurable experience.”
Make a recording and listen to it whenever you’re about to eat. Keep using it until
you know these words by heart and speak them automatically.