Intuitive Eating & Mindfulness at Mealtime

EDIT™ Worksheets | Be True To Your Self
Intuitive Eating #8 | Intuitive Mindful Meal Process

I grew up hearing the old adage, “you are what you eat.” Unfortunately for our clients, they believe this to be true. The truth is though, we aren’t what we eat. We need food to nourish our bodies and souls but we are not what we eat. Our clients are bodies, minds, hearts and souls. They are not pieces of chocolate cake or fried chicken!

Mealtime is one of the most vulnerable times of our client’s days. It is at the dinner table or at the company luncheon that our clients are faced with the very thoughts and insecurities that plague them. Intuitive eating can help clients remember to “check in” with the type and amount of food their bodies truly need at meals. And mindful eating skills can help the client find freedom and security while eating, especially in environments which can otherwise be very triggering .

The Intuitive Mindful Meal Process is one way we as therapists can directly support our clients on their path of healing and restoration. The best way to use this worksheet is to eat in session with your client. Instead of initially sharing a meal with one another, start out with a sample “safe” snacks – maybe a few apple slices, some baby carrots, a handful of raw almonds. If your client is willing, you can also add two pieces of dark chocolate (one piece for each of you). Lay each snack out on a table in front of you and your client, and being to walk through the worksheet. It helps to start out with “safe” snacks like these because it feels less intense than an entire meal at first.

Note the time the two of you are beginning to eat and what purpose you may be eating for. The client may feel forced to be eating so ask him or her about how that makes them feel and how that impacts his or her relationship with you. Continue the check-in process and after you and the client have discussed his or her initial feelings around eating, begin to take a bite of each snack.

After your client takes a bite of each snack, have the client tap into his or her five senses. What does the snack feel like, taste like, even sound like? What kind of crunch do the carrots make and what kind of juiciness comes from the apple? Instruct the client to approach the snacks as though he or she were investigating the foods for the first time and had to report his or her findings back to someone who had never tasted the food either. The key is to help a client taste the food with curiosity instead of judgmentally. This will help the client find freedom to eat.

Pause half-way through the meal to give the client a chance to stop eating if they are full or to eat more or less of one snack in particular. At the end of the meal, note the time the meal concludes as well as how hungry or full the client may be. Conclude the session by asking the client what they thought of the overall experience and what surprised them about eating the snacks. What are some ways they can improve their intuitive eating? After practicing this worksheet with snacks, eat a meal with the client and model how to eat graciously by going slowly and being gentle with one’s self by eating the meal without judgment. The client is not what he or she eats but is a whole person with gifts, talents and a soul. Intuitive eating will help a client realize this.