You’d have to be living under a rock to not have noticed that mindfulness is super trendy right. I can’t think of any aspect of my life where I could use more mindfulness than in my relationship with food.
Eating seems like a no-brainer, right? Eat or die. But for many of us, eating is either a chore where we shove whatever is handy in as we dash through the day and, for others, eating can come with a lot of emotional baggage in the form of feelings of guilt or shame.
So it seems like we’ve developed two gears when it comes to food — too busy to think about eating and all I can think about is eating. That’s where mindful eating comes in.
What is Mindful Eating?
First, let’s define mindful eating.
Mindful eating simply means paying attention to why and what you’re eating. It’s intentionally becoming aware of your motivations for eating and the experience of eating so that it becomes more about eating for self-care (because you’re hungry and need nourishment) rather than eating mindlessly (because you’re bored/tired/emotional and the cookies were right there). It’s a tool that when practiced consistently can help you to trust yourself with food again.
5 Tips for Eating Mindfully
1. Check in with yourself. Remember that eating isn’t just something you have to do every day to stay alive, it’s a form of self-care, arguably the highest form. By bringing mindfulness to the process, we can regain a healthier and productive relationship with food by noticing the sensations of hunger and satiety and feeling the effects that food has on both our bodies and our emotions. Before you take a bite, know why you’re eating or drinking it. Are you actually hungry? Where in your body do you feel hunger? What emotions are you currently experiencing (i.e. sadness, boredom, anxiety)? Learn to recognize that moment when your hunger has been satisfied and stop eating.
2. Slow down. In other words, chew your food, really taste your food. Eating seems to have become an afterthought in our busy lives, so when we do get a chance to eat, it’s like a competitive sport to see how fast we can get it down and move on to the next thing. Not only does slowing down and chewing your food help digestion, you’re also more likely to recognize when you’re full instead of blowing right past the point of no return. This is probably why mindful eaters have been shown to have healthier body weights and report a greater sense of well-being.
3. Don’t multitask. Don’t distract yourself with your phone or the TV. Give the act of nourishing and feeding your body the attention it deserves. Take a moment to appreciate that everything you do throughout your day is powered by these moments of eating and drinking. Your life is sustained with each bite or sip so focus on the texture, flavors, and experience. You might discover things about your food and your own preferences that you hadn’t noticed before.
4. Go for satisfaction. How many times in your life have you polished something off that you really didn’t even like and been disappointed? When it’s time to eat, eat with a clear intention and be sure that what you’re eating is something that will satisfy you. Eat because you enjoy what you’re eating not just because it’s right in front of you. If you’re paying attention, you might notice that after a few bites what you’re eating isn’t satisfying you, so you can choose to stop eating it. You’re an adult, you get to dictate what you eat. No one’s gonna make you clean your plate if it’s not what you wanted.
5. Try quiet. I had a week of silent breakfasts when I was at a teacher training at Kripalu and it changed the way I viewed food. It was weird at first, but as the days went on, I found myself noticing things I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed about the taste of the food I was eating and how it made me feel. By the end of the week, I was eating less at breakfast but walked away feeling much more satisfied with lots of energy for the day ahead. If a silent meal seems like too much for you, try enjoying a cup of coffee or tea in silence without distraction.
Get in touch with your own inner wisdom and take back your personal power through conscious choices about eating so that you’re not just mindlessly putting food in your mouth or eating your emotions. Mindful eating doesn’t have to be all or nothing. When practiced consistently, a little mindfulness here and there goes a long way.
How could you be more mindful in your approach to food? —Alison