Listen deeply to your body to know when it’s time to eat.
Mindful eating is the act of being aware of the food you eat, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgement and experience. Simply put, it is the art of presence you imbibe while you eat, with the help of your senses.
How can one ‘eat mindfully’?
It’s easy to eat mindfully when you are at a resort or on a retreat that ensures a distraction-free holistic experience. But, how do you ensure this happens in the comfort of your home or office, on a daily basis?
Take a look at this example on ‘raisins’ below.
There are many reasons that eating raisins is such a powerful exercise, but one is that when we slow down and eat healthy foods like raisins, we often enjoy them more than the story we tell ourselves about healthy foods.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you practice mindful eating:
STEP 1: Let your body catch up to your brain
Eating rapidly past full and ignoring your body’s signals vs. slowing down and eating and stopping when your body says it's full.
Your body communicates with you and actually sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after you, unconsciously, overeat. Slowing down can help you eat the right amount by simple ways like sitting down to eat, chewing each bite 25 times or more or even setting your fork down between bites.
STEP 2: Know your body’s personal hunger signals
Are you responding to an emotional want or responding to your body’s needs?
We’ve all practised ‘tuning into our minds’ to listen to our thoughts - it is now time to do the same with our bodies. These emotional triggers may be different for each of us; they could be stress, sadness, frustration, loneliness or even just boredom. When this happens, the stomach starts growling and your energy levels drop just a little. Listen deeply to your body to know when it’s time to eat.
STEP 3: Cultivate a mindful kitchen
Eating alone and randomly vs. eating with others at set times and places.
Proactively thinking about what we want to eat, be it a meal or snack, is the habit we need to cultivate in order to eat mindfully. Develop healthy environmental cues instead of eating every time you watch your favorite show or sit in your car. The ways include sitting down at a table, putting food in a plate or bowl, using cutlery instead of your hands and eating with care.
STEP 4: Understand your motivations
Eating foods that are emotionally comforting vs. eating foods that are nutritionally healthy.
This is another tricky balance, and ideally we can find nourishing foods that are also satisfying and comforting. But think back to that first mindful raisin. Did that seem appealing before you tried it? There are many reasons that raisin-eating is such a powerful exercise, but one is that when we slow down and eat healthy foods like raisins, we often enjoy them more than the story we tell ourselves about healthy foods. As we practice eating healthier and a greater variety of foods, we are less inclined to binge on our comfort foods, and more inclined to enjoy healthy foods, ultimately finding many foods mentally and physically satisfying as opposed to just a few.
STEP 5: Connect more deeply with your food
Considering where food comes from vs. thinking of food as an end product.
When we pause to consider all of the people involved in the meal that has arrived on your plate, from the loved ones (and yourself) who prepared it, to those who stocked the shelves, to those who planted and harvested the raw ingredients, to those who supported them, it is hard to not feel both grateful and interconnected. Be mindful of the water, soil, and other elements that were part of its creation as you sit down to eat whatever you are eating. You can reflect on the cultural traditions that brought you this food, the recipes generously shared from friends, or brought from a distant place and time to be handed down in the family.
STEP 6: Attend to your plate
Distracted eating vs. just eating!
Multitasking and eating is a recipe for not being able to listen deeply to our body’s needs and wants. We’ve all had the experience of going to the movies with our bag full of popcorn, and before the coming attractions are over, we are asking who ate all of our popcorn. When we are distracted, it becomes harder to listen to our body’s signals about food and other needs. With your next meal, try single-tasking and just eating, with no screens or distractions besides enjoying the company you are sharing a meal and conversation with.
So, summing it up - Mindful eating is slowing down, listening to our bodies, doing one thing at a time, making even small rituals, and considering all that went into our meal on a more regular basis and bringing more informal mindfulness to our daily meals!