It’s a fact. We have to eat. There’s no question here: literally all-living things need nourishment. But our modern world has changed the way we perceive and experience eating. Our relationship to food was once one of sanctity and reverence, but has deteriorated into a world of absent minded, hand-to-mouth multi-tasking and grab-and-go fast food.
When did we start eating mindlessly?
Seeing as we’d shrivel up and go kaput without it, we’re understandably pretty attached to food. But our current situation is like none we’ve experienced before.
Food is flown in from around the world, so everything is in season and available year round. This not only disrupts our environment, but also our metabolism and other physiological systems. Are we meant to eat red grapes all year round? We’re inundated with options; this in conjunction with our tech-heavy world has no doubt led to mindless eating. Not only does this contribute to the obesity epidemic, but it also creates a sharp disconnect between us and our environment.
Where does mindfulness come in?
If you’re already here, you probably know what mindfulness is and how it can positively benefit you. But here’s a quick rundown: mindfulness is bringing intention and awareness into the immediate present. When you’re mindful about food, you allow the meal to be enjoyed. Your body, and particularly your digestive system, will appreciate the experience of a thoroughly chewed piece of chicken – as opposed to one that’s inhaled, half chewed.
Why is mindfulness important when we’re doing something we’re hardwired to do? Research shows that how we eat is just as important as what we eat. By bringing mindfulness into eating, we can slow down and reconnect with ourselves and enjoy the experience of eating, savoring the flavors and improving our overall health.
How do we bring mindfulness into eating?
Mindful eating is essentially deliberate eating. Here are a few easy rules that will help bring you bring mindfulness into your next meal.
- Employ every one of your senses while you eat: smell, taste, sight, texture, even sound – such as crunch.
- Experience your food without criticism. Notice what you think of while you’re chewing.
- Appreciate each eating event as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Chew each bite more slowly.
- Revel in stillness and silence to give your taste buds a break.
- Respect flavor by giving it your full attention.
Why should we eat mindfully?
If you’re looking to shed some pounds, mindful eating will help with weight loss. If you’re more conscientious about what you’re putting into your mouth, you’ll be more aware of what kinds and how much food you’re putting into your body. Eating mindfully can also prevent binging. By bringing your full attention and intention to eating, you’ll be less likely to pig out.
Eating mindfully will also improve your taste palette. Slowing down and taking advantage of each of your senses will make you more aware of what’s happening in your mouth. Exercising these senses is just like any other workout. But you have to build the muscle for it to get stronger.
You can also feel more at one in your body and brain. If you force yourself to slow down in this visceral way, you can inadvertently develop a deeper connection with your sense of self and need for well being.
Here are a few exercises to try on your own to bring mindfulness into your eating habits.
- Take a piece of food you consider a treat. Maybe it’s a piece of chocolate, a gummy bear or a slice of cheese. First, investigate this piece of food with your eyes and your hands. Is it round? Is it cool? Is it squishy?
After 10 seconds of experiencing your treat with your eyes and your hands, put it up to your mouth. What does it feel like? Is it smooth? Is it aromatic? Close your eyes, and put the piece of food into your mouth. Don’t chew it, though. Explore it with your teeth and your tongue. Does it melt in your mouth? Is it sour? Is it sweet? Be fully present in this experience. Bring your whole awareness to your mouth. Continue this journey of taste for 20 seconds. Notice how the food breaks up when you start chewing. Finally swallow, and also note how it feels traveling to the back of your mouth and into your throat.
- Start your day with mindful eating. If you can find time to be completely alone in your home in the morning before everyone else is awake, take a few minutes to fully experience a cup of tea or coffee completely. Give all your attention to this experience for a few moments. Notice the aroma, the sensation, the taste. If you feel overwhelmed later in the day, come back to this moment. Make another cup of tea or coffee, and slowly experience it fully. You’ll notice you feel more centered, more aware and all with slower breath.
- Stop eating in front of your computer and TV. If you can’t stop, or insist you work better while you munch on food, be more aware of how much you’re actually eating. Instead of bringing the entire bag of chips to you, pour out a single serving size into a bowl. This way your supply isn’t infinite. The bottom of the bowl comes faster than the bottom of the bag does.
Have fun with your journey to experiencing food more mindfully. Eat, drink, and be merry. Just not too merry.