One of the key elements in my pursuit for wellness has been to tackle some of the old, maladaptive patterns that had been keeping me tired and sick for so long. Wishing to acquire new, healthy habits, I made it a goal to cultivate a daily practice of eating more mindfully.
The art of mindful eating can transform our relationship with food, restoring our sense of pleasure, appreciation and satisfaction when we eat. To eat mindfully brings one’s full attention back to the dinner table, where we become aware of the flavors, textures and aromas of what we’re eating, as well as the thoughts and emotions that arise.
As I set out to adopt a more mindful approach to eating, it shone a light on my existing habits related to food. Now I am aware that I had been eating mindlessly all this time, such as:
I love to cook, yet while I’m preparing a meal, I mindlessly graze on the ingredients, such as munching on chocolate chips while baking muffins.
I eat way too quickly, finishing my meal ahead of everyone else. Doing this can be unsatisfying; while others are still enjoying their meal, I’m staring at an empty plate.
I usually eat while distracted, such as eating at my desk, while cyber-loafing, or when watching television.
I’m frequently over-hungry having neglected to eat at regular intervals, which prompts me to engage in other mindless habits, as described above. This can also promote overeating and feeling uncomfortably full.
Eating alone in my car, I absentmindedly wolf down a snack as my attention is on negotiating city traffic.
Benefits of mindful eating
Increased enjoyment of food: In mindful eating, you learn to honor the food. While this practice increases your awareness of the taste, smell and texture of what you eat, it also increases your sense of gratitude for meal before you, the person who prepared it, the farmer that grew it, and the sun and rain for nourishing it. You are more likely to make more healthful choices, instead of reaching for a donut for a quick fix.
Being satisfied with less: Mindful eating has the benefit of restoring a healthy relationship with food; so you can trust yourself to feel satisfied with just one or two squares of chocolate, instead of scarfing down the entire block. By eating slowly, you are taking the time to fully experience your food, which in turn satisfies your hunger in ways that makes for a far happier relationship with food.
Reduces overeating: With increased satisfaction in eating, you are less likely to overeat. This means no more uncomfortable food baby, and no more needing to unbutton your jeans because you’ve just devoured an entire large pizza all by yourself!
Improved digestion: Mindful eating as health benefits too! The digestion process begins in the mouth with chewing and enzymes in the saliva. Chewing sufficiently allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food, helps maintain a healthy weight, and fewer digestive issues like bloating and gas.
Tips for mindful eating
Start small: Like all new habits, its best to set realistic goals. Commit to one meal or snack each day in which you practice eating mindfully.
No multitasking: It is too hard to pay attention at mealtimes if your focus is shared with other tasks. Make time each day for meals, and turn off the television!
Eat at the table: Mindless eating can be minimized by getting into a habit of eating all of your meals seated and can to give your meal your full attention. No more breakfasts in the car!
Value the appearance: Who hasn’t drooled over tantalizing food porn while browsing Pinterest or flicking through magazines? Taking time to appreciate the colors, shapes and textures of your food sets the tone for mindful eating.
Focus on each bite: Pay attention to the flavor, texture and even the sound of your food while you eat, and focus on the sensations you experience.
Chew: Ensure that you chew each bite 20 to 40 times, or until food is liquefied before you swallow and take the next bite.
Use a fork: Eating with a knife and fork facilitates eating smaller mouthfuls and eating more slowly. If you are eating finger foods, ensure that you put it back on the plate between bites.
Eat with loved ones: It can be challenging to practice mindful eating in a social context, but not impossible. Turn the conversation onto the meal, and discuss what you are experiencing while you eat.
Choose quality over quantity: By consuming smaller amounts of higher quality foods, you will likely enjoy it more and feel more satisfied.
Cook: Using fresh ingredients, the cooking process can be creative and relaxing, and as much fun as eating it! I also appreciate the peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly what went into my meal, making the added effort worthwhile.