Diets come and go. Eating fads fade and questionable recipes make their way around the web and into our offices often. Most of them center on what we are eating and not much on how we are eating.
Mindful (Intuitive) eating is a not a new concept. It also shouldn’t be surprising that it comes from the teachings of Buddhist as it strives to connect us and the experience of our food on a deeper level.
It’s the opposite of dieting
Mindful eating teachings help you practice consciousness about what you are putting into your body along with the why. Mindful eating is about listening to your body wholly–ignoring emotional signals–to better tune into your stomach’s (intuitive) desires.
It isn’t a complicated process and can be done with any one’s lifestyle whether you find yourself shopping at the fanciest grocery stores or the one on your corner. Again, it’s about what your body needs (not wants on a whim) and honoring that within.
Mindful mental notes:
Know thy food
What’s the story behind your meal? Do you know what the carbon footprint may be of that chicken or fruit you’re consuming? How far did it travel to get onto your plate? Even when we can’t answer these definitively, just thinking about them can help you appreciate the journey food has made to be in your presence. I’ve found this type of thinking has changed how, when, and where I purchase my food (I try to stay local). Overall it’s given me a better appreciation for all that it takes to get food in front of me.
Sip (or chew) in silence
Endless studies have shown that when we eat with electronics we stop fully paying attention to what we’re putting in our mouths. That can be dangerous in causing overeating, undereating, or even possibly hazardously eating. Just ask my friend who choked on pizza crust while eating and looking at a funny meme on her screen! She learned the hard way but you don’t have to. If you feel like you can’t move away from television or your phone long enough for each meal, just start with one and watch the difference unfold.
Speaking of silence…
Think of how you drink tea. Slowly, deliberately, and mostly silently. This is because we are aware of the temperature, and delicacy of the beverage. But, also because we want to savor the experience or flavor. Tea and coffee can usually be consumed without conversation and that’s why we often equate it to feelings of ‘relaxation’ and ‘undwinding’. A mindful meal makes for a mindful mind.
We’ve all probably heard the old adage of chew your food 32 times per bite. While that may be a little extreme, we can learn something by slowing down when we are eating. With fast food, drive thru, delivery, and on-demand dinners, it’s easy to forget that we don’t have to eat as fast as food can arrive. Eating slowly can decrease hunger and lead to higher levels of satiety between meals. Meaning you leave your plate feeling more satisfied. Don’t believe me? Check out what happened when one journalist experimented with eating slower for two weeks.
Listen from within
Sometimes our bodies are screaming “No more food!” and we still cram those stray fries or free bread down. All because we don’t want to leave food on our plates or we’re worried about loss in the cost of the meal. But, your body knows best so if you’re feeling full don’t force it. I’ve made the mistake of overeating in the past and paid for it later that night as I lie awake in bed cursing having those curly fries. It isn’t worth it. When we’re full, we’re full. We’ve just made it a habit of ignoring what our bodies are telling us because our minds are elsewhere.
There’s also a few other things that can help with mindful eating such as drinking water before and after a meal to simulate more fullness (of water) so you consume less (food) if you’re worried about overeating. You can also set your utensils down between bites (that’s always fun) or my favorite…eat with your opposite hand. This forces your brain to think differently and more purposefully in order to not spill your food. It’s hand-eye coordination at its finest.
It’s about commitment
Even if every meal won’t be consumed mindfully maybe you can get there (if that’s your goal) by starting small and working up to some of the items listed above.
Above all respect, honor, and enjoy every bite no matter how big or how small–donuts or salads, it works for all food. If you’re feeling lonely in this way of approaching food, there’s an entire Center For Mindful Eating that you can explore for more information and teachings.
Co-authored by Natali