A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to give a workshop based on socioemotional skills and mindfulness for young girls, aged 12 to 15; the theme was self-love and self-care.

Some of the topics we addressed were the interaction between thoughts, emotions, feelings and behaviors and how they impact our lives; the difficulties in communication with their peers and parents, stereotypes, diets, risk behaviors, among others.

After being together for 4 weeks the girls created an environment of closeness and trust, they were having fun in the sessions and making new friends. I decided to have a little meal in the final day, as an opportunity to sit together, introduce mindful eating and enjoy the moment.

I arranged some trays with different types of food: a variety of fruits and vegetables, chips and some candy. I covered them with cloth serviettes and kept it all out of their sight until the moment for this activity came. When it was time, I told them we were going to enjoy a little meal together. I invited them to sit together in a circle and led them through a mindful breathing moment. After that I gave them the instructions: 1) to give themselves the opportunity to be curious; 2) to experiment using all their senses, and 3) to remain in silence during the eating activity. They all agreed.

I presented the trays and I uncovered the food. I guided them through the nine hungers exercise, starting with eye hunger. I asked them to see the food from their seats, and to let their eyes guide them to what food they wanted. I did not give them any restrictions about amounts, they were able to pick as much as they thought they needed. Once they all had chosen and grabbed their food, I led them through the rest of the exercise.

Once we all finished eating, the girls shared their experience and their discoveries. Some dared to try new foods, some did not; some left food on their plates, others ate it all; some really liked what they picked, others disliked some of the food.

girl sampling foodThey shared things like “I wished I could always eat like this, without pressure”. Or, “I realized I did not really like the flavor of chips”.  Or, “I picked vegetables and fruit to not look so bad for eating the candy, but I actually enjoyed the fruit more than the candy!” Or “I left some food because I was not that hungry, not like my eyes and my mouth had said I was”. One girl said: “If we could eat like this all the time, I think our bodies would feel better.”

At the end of the workshop the girls answered a questionnaire. One question is to name some of the activities that they thought helped them know themselves more and take better care of themselves. The mindful eating exercise was a frequent answer.

What amazed me was the capacity of these young ladies to connect with their bodies and to realize there is a wisdom within that can help them live healthier and happier lives. I like to believe we all have that same capacity and wisdom within.

When was the last time you led your senses guide your choices around eating?  If you could eat without pressure, would you do so?

Claudia Vega, Mexico.

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