The Art of Mindful Eating
I want to start with this excerpt from Andrea Lieberstein.
“Mindful eating enables us to experience greater pleasure and nourishment from our food. Through mindful awareness we become more attuned to our body’s signals of pleasure, hunger, and fullness. We notice the food thoughts and beliefs that don’t serve us and encourage those that do. We notice what is beneficial, nurturing these with our attention. We make choices that support our health and well-being and those of the planet. We practice kindness toward ourselves and our cravings and forgive ourselves for the difficult moments. When we slow down, chew mindfully, and savor our food, we reduce stress, experience flavors fully, and improve digestion. When we focus on enjoying our food, worries fall away because we are no longer thinking about them. We tune in to and listen to signals from our body when we have had enough, thus helping us eat to a comfortable level rather than overeating.”
If you’re anything like me, sometimes my excitement gets the best of me and I can’t wait to dive into my meal, whether I’ve spent a long amount of time cooking or I’m out and eager to indulge. I love food and I love eating it! But that speed and excitement often leaves me unsatisfied. Have you ever eaten a meal and actually don’t remember it? Likely you were watching TV, driving, on the computer, working, etc. hence completely missing the experience and the pleasure of eating!
My first experience with Mindful Eating was probably almost two decades ago during a residential retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, it was my first silent retreat and I adored every minute… well, after the first two days that is. It took a second, but once my mind was able to relax and take in a different rhythm, I was quite content. And then… it was lunch and I could sense my dopamine already getting stirred up! What was for lunch? Was it going to be good? Will they have bread? Or rice? Or will it only be soup? Regardless, once we entered and sat for our silent meal, I learned about mindful eating and it was orgasmic. Just me and my meal, pure enjoyment, no accompanied thoughts; planning, worrying, stressing, thinking. Just simplicity, just me and my meal. Ahhhh.
Here are a 3 tips if you’d like to experiment with this powerful practice.
Place your plate in front of you, put your hands in your lap, close your eyes and take 2-3 deep breaths. Notice any feelings you might be having- rushed, starved, tired, maybe some anxiety? What is your hunger level, ask yourself, how hungry am I? We tend to enjoy our food the most when we are hungry. Too hungry and we eat too fast. Not hungry at all, for example, maybe you’re just eating because it’s ‘dinner time’? Then eating would not be a very kind thing to do for your body. Can you wait until your body is ready?
Gaze and take a moment
Notice the colors, smells, placement, look at the beauty of your meal. Take a moment to contemplate what it took to get this meal on your plate. This is a Buddhist concept called dependent arising which is defined as specific conditions whose presence is indispensable for something to come into existence. So consider, the farms who grew your food, the farmers who picked it, the driver of the truck that transported it, the store that carried it so you could purchase it and so and so on. This is a practice not for just eating, in the bigger picture it serves as a way to bring us closer together and helps us relate to everyone instead creating a barrier of separatism.
Take your first bite, close your eyes and really sense with your taste buds. Put words to what you taste; salty, sweet, sour, nutty, garlicky. Give words to the texture, crunchy, creamy, prickly. Be conscious of the temperature; too hot, warm, cooling. And notice after you swallow, tracking it as it makes its journey; the warmth or cold you might feel in your tummy. Notice how your mouth knows exactly what to do, your jaw knows exactly how hard to bite, your tongue moves things around in such an all knowing way. And finally, this is a biggie. Pay attention to the moment the enjoyment fades, this is the most fascinating thing, where it’s still good, but not as good as those first few bites! For me, this is where I go into, “Ok, time to finish this up and move on to the next thing.” If you find yourself there, then it’s suggested to tune in to whether you are full and perhaps you’ve had enough.
Three points of practice. I’d recommend doing this at least once a day, consider practicing alone at first, you can do an entire meal or just the first few bites if you prefer. Sometimes my husband and I do it together verbally out loud! Hmmmm chicken! Garlic! Creamy! Or did you get to the sweet carrot yet!? No need to make it tedious. Have fun with it!
And if you’d like to listen to me walk you through it, go to your Insight Timer App and there under my tracks, you will find “Mindful Eating”.
I want to leave you with one more thing to consider. Many people use food to nourish or soothe themselves when they are actually craving something else. Which leads me to another excerpt from Andrea Lieberstein… What if we were living a life where we felt well-nourished emotionally, intellectually, physically, psychologically, spiritually, socially, and creatively? What if we were mindfully present to receive, experience, plan for, and engage in nourishing activities, moments, and practices regularly that fed us on many levels. What if we were able to maintain an inner sense of balance and nourishment even when things are not perfectly in balance, and have the tools and practices to do so rather than turn to food at those times?
Thank you, Andrea! Now that is something to ponder.