The ancient Buddhist principle of mindfulness is centered around placing meditative awareness into whatever task you are undertaking. Mindful eating is a way to connect with your meal and to experience the purpose and pleasure of eating to the fullest.
Due to the hectic modern lifestyle that many of us lead, we often eat while performing other tasks; often very quickly and without thinking about our food at all. This may be one reason why so many people continue to consume processed foods – we are simply not taking the time to consider what is going into our bodies.
Dr. Jan Chozen Bays, pediatrician, meditation teacher and author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, states, “I think the fundamental problem is that we go unconscious when we eat.”
Harvard nutritionist Dr. Lilian Cheung agrees: “the rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves. That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?’”
If you are trying to lose weight, eating mindfully can help you to eat less. When we shovel food into our mouths unconsciously, we often eat way beyond the point of fullness, without even noticing it. When we are aware of what we are eating, and how fast we are eating, we often make healthier choices, and also can sense when our bodies are full and it is time to stop.
As many of us lead busy lives, it may be impossible to practice mindful eating at every meal. However, at least once a week, try the following steps to make your meal a meditation:
1. While cooking, take time to reflect on each ingredient you use. Consider its health benefits, its flavor and what the ingredient means to you. If you grow your own fruits, veggies and/or herbs, use some ingredients that you grew, and ponder the care that you took to plant them, and how they grew.
2. Create an atmosphere in your eating area. Add candles, arrange flowers and use your favorite plates, glasses and silverware. This will turn the simplest of meals into a culinary experience.
3. When it is time to eat, turn your focus solely to eating. Turn off the T.V. and put away the electronic devices. If possible, try to encourage silence, so you can fully contemplate your food. If you have young children and this is impossible, try to have as many moments of silence as possible throughout your meal, especially while you are chewing.
4. Look at the plate in front of you. Reflect on the colors and shapes on your plate, and inhale the aromas. Clear your mind, and take a moment to truly appreciate your meal.
5. Once you take that first bite, put your spoon or fork down. Enjoy the full experience of the first bite before taking the next.
6. Chew slowly and deliberately. Aim for 25 to 30 chews per mouthful.
7. Savor the flavors, textures and nuances involved in each bite of your meal, paying attention to how they mingle to create a single dish.
Eating mindfully is all about experiencing every aspect and sensation of your food, to get the most enjoyment from it as possible. As with all things, eating mindfully is a skill that takes time to develop.
Dr. Cheung says, “don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not supposed to be able to switch on your mindfulness button and be able to do it 100 percent. It’s a practice you keep working toward.”
-The Alternative Daily