Living with cancer blog

Practice mindful eating during, after cancer treatment

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. April 27, 2013

Good nutrition and eating well are so important — for everyone — especially during and after cancer treatment. We've talked many times on the blog about how important it is to choose nutritious foods. This week let's talk about mindful eating.

I became aware of this a few years ago and love it. I was thinking of it last week as we celebrated Earth Week. The earth provides an incredible source of nutrition every day.

Mindful eating is a way of being present during eating by relaxing and taking time to taste, savor and celebrate food and nutrition. This mind-body practice can help you be aware of the experience of eating and how important it is to nourish and care for your body.

Try mindful eating next time you have a snack or meal. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Be in touch with your emotions and feelings — recognize the sensation of hunger. What does it feel like? Are you having a craving? Are you bored? What other emotions and feelings are you experiencing?
  • Be aware of the food on your plate — reflect on how the food was prepared, who prepared it, how it looks and smells. Notice bright colors and fresh smells of fruits and vegetables especially.
  • Give thanks prior to eating the first bite — recognize the way in which the food was created. If it's a vegetable, for example, think of the soil that nourished it while growing and the people who cared for it.
  • Slowly savor the food — as you take your first bite, notice the taste, temperature, texture and sensation as you slowly chew. Take longer than usual to chew and even notice how you feel when you swallow.
  • Take a deep breath and exhale — put your fork or spoon down between bites in order to relax, breathe and reflect on the nutrition of the food you just took in.

I enjoy doing this, especially for breakfast. I begin by smelling the coffee beans as I prepare my coffee. Next, I take time to sit and feel the warmth of the cup between my hands. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and smell the coffee before I take a sip. I think about the plant that made the beans, the people who harvested it, the way it was roasted and packed. Next, I take a sip and enjoy the first taste and warmth as I wake up.

Normally, I eat a carrot muffin for breakfast. I smell the muffin and feel it in my hands as I break off a section, placing the first piece in my mouth, I thank the people who grew the carrots, harvested the wheat for the flour, and made the muffin. I enjoy the taste, texture and sensation of it. I try to take at least 10 minutes to enjoy the beginning of my day this way. It's a great way to begin the day in a relaxed and positive manner.

I'd love to hear if anyone else has tried mindful eating — please share your views on the blog.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

April 27, 2013