When you practice mindful eating and learn to eat with intention, you can heal your relationship with food and slow down to really enjoy your meals. Mindful eating is a powerful practice that can transform the way you look at food.
The act of being mindful helps to bring your awareness into play. Mindful eating can be incorporating all or only some of the ideas below. Take for example…
I used to rush to get my food down, eat all the less exciting parts like veggies first, then scarf down all the carbs and protein. All this left me with was an overly full stomach and no more food. I used to justify this behavior in that I’m just making sure to eat my food before it gets cold.
What a silly reason to make myself uncomfortable.
Eating, for me, used to all about getting the food on my plate, in me. I used to believe that eating was such an inconvenience and that if I could just take a pill to get all my nutrients I would. Even if I had spent the time to make sure that the spices were just right or after carefully peeling my veggies.
But I wasn’t ready to commit to eating my meals in silence. So mindful eating didn’t feel like it was in the books for me. Meditating while eating my food… no thanks!
Mindful eating is not meditating though. Mindful eating is an all encompassment of the act of using awareness to pay attention to the ingredients, the preparation, and the impact your meals have. That part I can get behind. I already pay attention to the ingredients in my food, I try to be aware of the sugar I’m consuming, and I follow a vegan diet. So paying more attention to my food shouldn’t be hard, right?
So I tried mindful eating a few times and you know what I found?
Paying attention works but only if you can keep coming back to it. It’s not sustainable to try to eat every meal in silence or even chew every bite 40 times.
But… mindful eating works. I didn’t lose any weight and I never had any wild epiphanies about the way I eat. Instead, I still eat in front of the TV or with my phone in hand but sometimes I catch myself. I notice that I am starting to eat too fast so I take a couple of bites to count the number of times I need to chew my food. I stop myself at the grocery store from picking up food that I know contributes to environmental or health issues. I take time to smell all my food while it cooks.
I let cooking and consuming food be more than just the act of getting nutrients. I pay attention to the food I’m eating and enjoy eating.
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What is Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is the act of eating without distractions and slowing down to enjoy your food. Mindful eating is a practice similar to mindfulness meditation in that you are taking time to observe an experience. While encompassing yourself and the food that you are eating, mindful eating can actually include what impact your food has in the world. Like where the ingredients came from, how the ingredients got to you, or who grew the food. While mindful eating can be rather complex and have many different layers, learning how to apply it for every meal doesn’t have to be.
Instead, it can be paying attention to how the food tastes, the textures, and the way it smells. Paying attention to how you feel along the way is also important. Your body and mind connect through food when practicing mindful eating.
Mindful eating can actually start when you are preparing and cooking food. You should pay attention to how everything feels as you are cutting and preparing your ingredients. Does anything have an immediate smell?
What about once you start cooking it? What do you smell?
Once you have finished cooking your meal and you are ready to eat, portion yourself off a smaller portion than you would normally have. Before you sit down, make sure that there are no immediate distractions. Along with not sitting in front of the television, you should also ditch your phone.
Take a moment or two before digging in to express gratitude for your meal, the attention it took to prepare it, and the journey that the food took before it got to you.
Take your first bite and chew thoroughly. Chewing your food 30-40 times would be best. While chewing take time to note any flavors and textures that you notice. Is it sweet? Is it spicy? Is it crunchy or soft?
Take your time to finish the remainder of your food, all the while noting what aspects you come across.
If you are eating with others it might seem a little weird to sit in complete silence while you eat, in this case, dedicate a few minutes or a few bites to a more aware eating approach before talking with your table mates. Remember to check in with yourself periodically, in this case, to not get too sucked into your old eating habits.
As you begin to near the end of your meal, it is important to check in with yourself and your body. How did the food make you feel? Was it food that made you happy? Why or why not? How does the food make you feel physically? Do you feel energized? Was it food that made your body happy but not your mind? Or vice versa? Are you satisfied or looking for more?
Mindful eating does not have to be a complex project to complete for every meal. It can be adopted into your normal food practices to help you strengthen your relationship to food.
By practicing the whole act of mindful eating you can learn through awareness where your relationship with food suffers. From this, you can then adopt small pieces of mindful eating into your everyday practice.
By taking the time to acknowledge where your relationship with food is you can begin to heal it. If you find yourself rushing through meals, mindful eating can teach you to make healthier food choices and make eating more of a ritual than a chore.
You have the ability to rework your relationship with food by paying more attention to the food you eat, where it comes from, and how it makes you feel. Your mind is your most powerful tool in making the right choices for your body and the world. Mindful eating gives you the awareness needed to see the changes you need to make.
When you take time to slow down and connect with yourself and your food, you can create a connection that fosters a healthy relationship. Mindful eating can transform how you look at and enjoy your food. When you eat with intention you not only feel better but are more aware and more likely to make good food choices.