Mindful Eating Series: Noticing Mouth Hunger

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Mindful eating technique to heighten eating awareness | How mindful eating works

Raisin meditation

Today is the third post in our series on mindful eating.  We’ve been exploring the seven hungers — eye hunger, nose hunger, mouth hunger, stomach hunger, cellular hunger, mind hunger and heart hunger — as discussed in Jan Chozen Bay’s book Mindful Eating.  Each of these hungers provide a unique lens through which to investigate your relationship to food and the body.  By noticing your eating through these hungers, from a place of curiosity, not judgment, change is possible. – Barbara Meyer, PhD, Green Mountain at Fox Run Program Director

Unlike eye hunger and nose hunger, mouth hunger is one of the seven hungers that can only be fed by food.  (Well, I couldn’t think of many non-food ways, either — other than kissing and smoking cigarettes).  The mouth is hungry for stimulation.  It is fed by flavor, temperature and texture.  The mouth gets bored easily, so keeping the mouth interested, we may go from salty to sweet, crunchy to smooth.  Dr. Bays suggests that to have the experience of a true “party in the mouth,” we must invite our awareness of our food.

Being in the here and now, with mindful eating, gives us the gift of noticing and appreciating the natural flavor of foods.  As many times as I have done a raisin meditation, I am still interested in, and surprised by, the variety of textures and tastes in this small bit of food.  The outside feels rubbery, without taste and is texturally unappealing to me, until I bite it and enjoy the contrast of the explosion of sweetness inside.

What our mouths enjoy varies among individuals, and is influenced by our genetics, our family environment and our culture. In our country, we are less attuned to subtle flavors; many of our foods, particularly processed foods, are over the top with salty or sweet flavors. As many of us have been conditioned to eat a diet of processed foods and artificial flavors, having the experience of “real food” and how delicious it can be is new for many participants at Green Mountain.

In the name of health (and weight loss, which is often confused with health), many lower fat and reduced calorie products are also low in taste.  Lack of flavor and variety are the hallmarks of many diet programs, another way we deprive ourselves, and deny pleasure and yet another reason these programs are short-lived.

One aspect of mindful eating that I find interesting to notice is how the experience of taste can change throughout the meal.  The first bites may be packed with flavor and interest and this, if we’re paying attention, shifts over the course of the meal.  What would it be like to stay with this noticing? From a place of curiosity, we may notice this moment when we are no longer enjoying the food.  And again from a place of curiosity, we may ask ourselves if we are still hungry or not?

And then, only then, can we make a true choice to continue to eat or not, determined not by the food left on our plate, but rather how satisfied or complete we feel with our meal.

When was the last time you noticed your taste change during the course of a meal? Did you decide to keep eating? Why or why not?

 

4 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Julia says:

    I have done this exercise many times. And each time – though I know what to expect in terms of texture and taste – helps me solidify the practice of mindful eating. There’s something secretively silly and fun about enjoying a raisin, or any food, in a new and curious way.

  • Ryan says:

    Great post! I agree with the point you made about the difference between hungers. One thing I’ve found to be extremely helpful and useful as a supplement to my current diet/exercise plan is Fullbar (www.fullbar.com). Their gummies and bars help curve my hunger, help me with portion control and keep me from consuming more calories than I really need.

  • Gregg Ghelfi says:

    Chewing your food and pausing between bites will allow you to notice the taste and enjoy the food. It will also extend the meal which gives the stomach time to realize it’s full. It may not stop you from eating the food in front of you but it could keep you from a second helping.

  • Carolina says:

    I often experience a type of mouth hunger that is rooted in an imbalance in my intake, most likely too low in carbs, although sometimes not eating enough fat is the culprit. It is a gnawing feeling on the tip of the tongue and behind the teeth, very similar to the way the mouth feels with genuine stomach hunger. However, my belly is full and I know I really don’t need to eat more, but the mouth is still asking for more.

    The only way I can make it go away is to have a small amount of sugar. It quickly fixes the imbalance. Or I can prevent it from happening by including some starch in my meal, like rice, potatoes, quinoa, or toast.

    It gets worse when I increase my exercise.

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