Learn a transformational mindfulness practice that will change the way you relate to food!
by Grace Edmunds
When was the last time you had a meal that you remembered fully? If you close your eyes right now, can you taste the morsels of food on your tongue, or even remember the way it smelled. Salivating yet? If you were able to remember a time, how long ago was it? Where were you and why do you think it was that you savored this meal so much? Many of us eat without fully paying attention to our food and perhaps being fully distracted. If you can learn how to practice mindful eating, it will help you enjoy and appreciate your meals more, leading to a happier and healthier you!
Food is necessary to sustain life for all beings on the planet and most of us engage in eating 3 or more times per day. If this one activity takes up so much time and effort in our daily lives, why do you think so many of us have a complicated relationship with food? How many times can you remember getting too full, or being so hungry because you ignored you hunger pains? Or maybe you are an emotional eater and turn to sweets as a way to self-soothe when you’re feeling down. It’s fine to do this every once in a while, but it can become toxic to our bodies and minds if we make it a habit. Luckily, there is a wonderful practice that incorporates mindfulness to the pleasure of eating. We call it this practice Mindful Eating.
What is Mindfulness?
Perhaps you’ve heard about it at work, or maybe your doctor even recommended it to you. But what is it, really? Mindfulness is the skill of paying attention to your current experience in a way that is non-judgmental and kind. This type of attention helps us to see the totality of our experience in a clear, unbiased way.
Mindfulness can help us notice when we are on auto-pilot, living and reacting based on our habituated way of being. This is important when we are eating because mindfulness will give us the oversight to know if that extra piece of chocolate cake is the smartest way to show up for our pain. It will also remind us when we are hungry that our body is asking for us to care for it. Beyond that, Mindfulness can help us have a true sense of appreciation for our food as we eat it.
How to Practice Mindful Eating
So, where do you start with mindful eating? Luckily, you have at least three times throughout your day to give it a try. I invite you to try this process for the next meal or snack you eat. If a full meal feels too adventurous, start with mindful eating for the first three bites!
One way to activate the mindfulness area of our brain, is to pay attention to the details of the current moment’s experience. For this practice, we will use the tool of our five senses. When you sit down to eat your food, take a moment before you pick up your fork, spoon or chopstick to simply take a look at the meal in front of you. Notice the colors, textures, grooves, and elements that are present. Without thinking too much, simply observe. If your mind starts to get busy, notice that, and bring your attention back to your food-filled plate.
When we eat food throughout the day, we rarely take the time to consider where the food came from or all of the people who were involved in the production and distribution. A helpful next step after becoming present, is to reflect on the farmers that tended to the soil as the plants grew from seed to flower. If you’re eating meat, you can consider the people who raised and cared for the animals. If you cooked yourself, think of where you purchased the components, your local grocery store or market. Imagine all of the people who were involved in stocking, transporting and selling these items to you. All of these beings, their time, effort, and energy were involved for this one simple meal. Reflecting in this way often inspires a since of appreciation for our interconnectivity.
Take Your Time
At this point I’m sure your belly is rumbling, and mouth is salivating. Well that’s great because it means your digestive system has kicked in and is ready to go! Now you’re ready to take your utensil, collect some food and bring it to your mouth. Take a moment to observe it a bit closer by observing colors and textures as you savor the smell of herbs and spices. Then, slowly place it on your tongue and before you start chewing, become mindful of what you’re tasting. Try to identify different flavors and their corresponding component. Then, chew slowly as you begin take your first bites. You will taste an explosion of flavors moving together.
Practicing mindful eating can actually make the food taste that much better, simply because we’re giving our attention to eating. Be mindful of how your body feels throughout your meal, accepting these signals, so as not to eat past the point of satisfaction.
Appreciate and Give Thanks
Slowing down and taking time with this daily process of eating is sure to inspire a sense of gratitude. If it doesn’t, you can remind yourself of the many things that you can be grateful for in this moment; access to diverse and healthy food sources, clean drinking water, a system in place that connects farmer to consumer, the Earth for providing an abundance of nutrients for our bodies. Taking the time to appreciate these simple truths will boost our sense of wellbeing and increase our capacity to be compassionate to others.
Your New Relationship with Food
If you take the time to practice Mindful Eating a few times a week, you will feel more connected to the process of nourishing your body with food. This simple activity can help to reshape the way you think about food, changing your relationship to it in a positive way. Try this practice with a friend or bring it in to your next family meal to make a mindful meal!
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