Mindful eating is rooted in Buddhism and even tied to Yoga. But take that all away and mindful eating in its simplest form is a return to appreciating and being thankful for our food. When we sit down these days for a meal; if we are even sitting down and not rushing; usually we are eating while scrolling on our phones, watching tv, or gossiping away with friends.
We end up eating too fast, too much and don’t give our brains time to process that we are full, so we end up overeating and not feeling satisfied. Eating when our emotional state is high messes with our emotional wellbeing and that sends signals to our gut that causes it great distress. Our poor bodies don’t know what to process and the signals get all mixed up.
So what exactly is Mindful eating? (Lilian W.Y. Cheung, lecturer and director of health promotion and communication in the Department of NUTRITION at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) Defines MINDFUL EATING as
“the practice of cultivating an open-minded awareness of how the food we choose to eat affects one’s body, feelings, mind, and all that is around us.”
The practice enhances our understanding of what to eat, how to eat, how much to eat, and why we eat what we eat. When eating mindfully, we are fully present and savor every bite--engaging all our senses to truly appreciate the food. Beyond just taste, we notice the appearance, sounds, smells, and textures of our food, as well as our mind’s response to these observations. When we eat with this understanding and insight, gratitude and compassion will arise within us. Thus mindful eating is essential to ensure food SUSTAINABILITY for future generations, as we are motivated to choose foods that are not only good for our health but also good for our planet.”
Mindful eating shouldn’t be difficult and there’s no need to give up your social life to practice eating mindfully.
So what are the core things you want to keep in mind when mindful eating?
Eating slowly with limited distraction
Chewing our food completely and savoring the flavors. Are you eating while reading this!? Do you usually watch tv or scroll through your phone? This blocks you from fully enjoying your food and takes you away from the present moment.
Listen to your physical hunger cues and eating only until you're just about full
This ties into being present with your food. When we eat while rushing, standing, driving, we become distracted and can’t hear the signals that we are just about full. Which is where you want to stop eating. We want to avoid reaching the point where we feel like we need to unbutton our pants ;)
Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers
Many times we are just dehydrated and having a glass of water helps satiate us, learn to know when it’s real hunger and not just hunger out of boredom.
Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes
When something is important to us we tend to give it our full attention, we make time for it, whether it be work, relationships, etc. Nourishing our bodies shouldn’t be any different. Again be present with your food and give it the attention it deserves.
Learning ways to cope with guilt and anxiety around food
This is a huge one for many of us, myself included. The guilt of finishing our plates, the pressure of eating in social gatherings even though we are full, or even feeling bad for eating that slice of pizza when we committed to having a green juice. Guilt and anxiety are not healthy and they mess with our gut balance when we give them attention. Realize that having a slice of pizza doesn’t need to be shameful and also doesn't mean we’ve messed up our entire plan of eating clean. Be kind to yourself and forgive yourself for your thoughts. We hold no judgments around food.
Eating to maintain overall health and well-being
Mindful eating is rooted in the belief that we ‘Eat to live and not live to eat’ Hippocrates, father of medicine famously stated “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Eating should be used as a means to nourish our bodies. Remember that food can either be our cure or poison to our bodies. and when we overeat we put distress on our organs that suddenly need to work into overdrive to rummage through all the food we're ingesting.
Noticing the effects feelings have on the food you consume
Ah Yes! that elusive emotional eating beast! We all struggle with getting a hold on our emotional eating. There's a lot of factors that can contribute to why we do this. It’s not a matter of self-control it’s that we haven't learned proper techniques to cope with our feelings. The next time you find yourself reaching for something unhealthy to comfort your feelings, have a plan in place so you are prepared. Self-care is huge now in the health community. By replacing that pint of ice cream with a bubble bath, or massage your telling your body that it’s worthy of love and care. After all, our bodies are the only ones we have, so care for it well!
Appreciating your food
When you can be present with your food you can fully appreciate the experience of eating. Being aware of the smell, taste, and texture all give a positive and enjoyable experience to your meal when you can be present with it. Be sure to chew thoroughly, swallowing your food completely before taking another bite. It’s often helpful to put your utensils down in between bites.
5 easy steps to keep in mind the next time you are reaching for a meal…
Intention is paramount for preparing our bodies for the sustenance it’s about to receive. Stating our intention before cooking or enjoying a meal helps to give peace to our emotional state and to the food we are eating.
Saying a prayer or being thankful when sitting for a meal gives respect to the food and you become more conscious of what you, in turn, put into your body. Being aware of our emotional state and why we are eating, Taking control of emotional eating :(
When practicing mindful eating we are being thankful for where our food came from. The hard work of the farmers and laborers. Recognizing the ethical way our food was raised, animals especially, and how they were treated.
4. Quality over Quantity
Organic food is great if you can afford it, but what if you can’t. When you recognize that we don’t need much to survive and that eating to live is way better than living to eat you begin to consume less and that leads to being able to afford quality ingredients.
It must be said…there’s even an emoji dedicated to this! How we use the toilet and how often has a huge part of our health and being mindful of our eating lend hand to this outcome ;)
Now that you've learned some key steps in how to incorporate mindful eating. Think about one thing you'd like to start; keep it small and attainable but stay consistent. Once you’ve achieved that step move on to the next. Don’t be hard on yourself, give it time, and keep up the practice. And remember why settle for anything less than feeling good!?