Loving yourself through mindful eating
To understand mindful eating, you first must understand mindfulness. Mindfulness, in its simplest sense, is paying attention to what is going on, both internally and externally, at any given moment. It is a conscious decision to be fully aware of heart, mind, body, and environment. Rather than take a shower and spend the time going through the motions, planning your day, or reflecting on a past event, a mindful shower requires feeling the water pouring over your head, the smell of your soap, the scrub of the loofah on your skin. Mindfulness at the office might include noticing the comfy-ness of the chair, the attitudes of your coworkers, the competence you demonstrate.
Practicing mindfulness promotes peace, wisdom and acceptance of what is occurring in the here and now.
Mindfulness promotes peace, wisdom and acceptance.
Mindful eating starts with preparing the meal
Mindful eating calls for a careful, well thought out plan of choosing your food. The idea is to find food that not only nourishes you, but is food that you enjoy. Careful menu planning can make the difference between success and failure. Think about the foods that you love. Think about how they will look on the plate, both alone and in combination with each other. This will take some effort in the beginning. It is an excellent opportunity to exercise self love and self care.
All too often, we eat while we are working, watching TV, or cruising on the internet. Mindful eating calls us to step away from the hectic background noise and just be. We sit at our table, taking in the feel of the linen napkin and the color of the plate. We take in the smells, flavors, textures, crunch, even temperature of our food. We notice it, and we enjoy it.
Particularly in the beginning, you will get distracted. Old habits die hard and you should be kind to yourself as you practice mindful eating. It is not unlike meditation. Thoughts will pop into your head – from what your work day looks like the next day, to errands and tasks you need to take care of. Just gently bring yourself back to eating with mindfulness.
Consider eating in silence, at least for the first minute or two. This gives you a moment to really focus on the food on your plate. Then focus on the food in your mouth. How does it taste? What do you like about the texture? Does it invoke fond memories of childhood?
If you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about the food you put in your mouth, this can be a time of exploration. Stop eating what you do not like, or that does not serve you. Spend your time and money on foods that you love.
Not sure about which foods you might love? Start by cruising the web or your cookbooks at home, looking for recipes that sound good to you. Then try them. Another fun way to discover what foods you may love is to sign up for a CSA, - community supported agriculture. Each week, you get a box of vegetables from the farm. What comes in the box depends on what crops were successful and what produce is in season. Many CSA’s allow you to select a box based on your family’s size. Alternatively, consider a meal delivery service so that you can explore different recipes.
Ways to practice mindful eating to train yourself to get into the habit
What do you drink first thing in the morning? Coffee? Tea? A carbonated beverage? Put a sticky note next to where you take your first sip of your favorite beverage that says, “Enjoy this drink with your complete attention.” Put a note in your lunchbox. As you find yourself half way through your work day, and pull out your lunch, make sure you love yourself enough to remind yourself in a written note, “Enjoy this lunch mindfully.” Consider including some extra crunchy foods. The noise and effort alone should help you keep your mind on eating mindfully.
As a part of mindful eating, slow down! Chew your food thoroughly. Eating slowly will also help you to enjoy the varying flavors in your food. Take smaller bites. Really think about what you are consuming.
Benefits of mindful eating
In addition to practicing mindfulness in general, and enjoying your food more, there is a health benefit to mindful eating. Because it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it is full, by eating more slowly, you will consume fewer calories between the time the message is sent and the time the message is received. There is also at least one study that suggests mindful eating can be an effective technique for treating binge eating.
The beauty of mindful eating is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Rather, it just takes a bit more planning and a bit of slowing down. Love yourself enough to try it for a week. You might be surprised at how good you feel.