Mindfulness eating is not just about eating mindfully. Neither is it about fitness or weight loss. It is a deep concept that needs to be understood properly in order promote good health and wellness.
When we say mindful eating we are generally talking about being conscious about the ingredients or the type of food we consume.
Mindfulness eating on the other hand is a complete lifestyle based around eating and enjoying food that gives maximum benefit to both mind and body. We can say that mindful eating is just a part of mindfulness.
Let’s talk about a few mindfulness eating exercises that can help us to develop a better relationship with our food.
What Are these Mindfulness Eating Exercises?
We live in a fast paced world where we face lot of stress and anxiety on regular basis. As a result, we are always on the go. We have unhealthy eating patterns, we are light sleepers, we consume too many stimulants such as tea and coffee, throughout the day.
Unfortunately, most of us are distracted and prioritize other things over food. At times, we even skip our meals or eat in a hurry. We feel that eating is just a basic need of human body which is required for survival and doesn’t require that much focus and attention.
I have met so many successful (so called) people who earn millions of dollars every month but are extremely unhappy because they struggle to pass waste out of the body every morning. They are so wealthy that they can buy practically anything that comes to mind, but struggle with so many physical and mental ailments.
Let me ask you a simple question. Where would you like to spend more time, on the dinning table or on the toilet seat?
Let me make it very clear that this post is not about weight loss. Weight loss can be a consequence of mindfulness eating, but that is not what we are going to discuss here. Maybe I will cover that in a separate post.
We are here to learn how mindfulness eating can change the quality of our life. So, I’m sharing with you these six powerful and effective strategies that can help you do that.
#1 – Settle Down And Prepare Your Mind Before the Meal
Get away from all of the electronic gadgets you are using, at least 10 minutes before you consume your meal. Most of us are so hooked on to our fancy gadgets and devices that we have to be constantly reminded to eat. We don’t give ourselves a break, and relax before eating.
Some of us just abruptly getup and start hogging food like a wild animal. I did this myself and have suffered great consequences.
It’s important to fix a time for all of your meals. Your body adapts to this timing and all of the organs work accordingly to help you digest the food.
If you eat at different times the body will be confused and you will have problems. Also from the point of view of mindfulness this is very import.
For example, if you are supposed to eat lunch at 1:00 pm, you should disengage from your devices at least 10 minutes earlier.
For these 10 minutes just breathe deep (but slowly) and be aware of the fact that you are about to consume your lunch. This helps to relax our mind and body and free us from the stress of the activity we were doing earlier.
#2 – Remove Distractions and Focus on Your Meal
While consuming your meal, all of your attention should be focused on the meal itself. Most of us have this habit of switching on television or engaging with our phones and other work while eating.
If you are worried about how many likes you got on that picture your uploaded an hour ago, or that email you were expecting from a client, then you are most likely to eat in hurry which may cause indigestion and bloating.
A report published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that those of us who multitask while eating food like watching television, using phones, or in general are distracted, are more like to eat more. Paying attention to a meal was linked with eating less food.
Also it’s important to chew your properly before you take it inside. When we are free of distractions chewing food comes naturally to us. It’s only when we are distracted and stressed, we tend to eat in haste.
When the food is eaten in small bites and chewed thoroughly, it gets mixed with the saliva properly, before going inside and aids in better digestion. Devote at least 20 minutes of your time to one meal.
#3 – Be Mindful of What You Put Inside Your Body
When the food is laid out on table, everything looks so exciting that it’s difficult to resist the temptation. Our mind and body reacts to the color, smell and presentation of each and every item on the table.
In such situations, we get so mesmerized by the visual appeal of the food that we don’t realize what’s good for us and what isn’t.
I remember an incident when I went out with my wife for a dinner party thrown by one of friends. We had a good time, had drinks and delicious food, and in the end they served dessert.
It was some kind of kiwi based pudding. Now my wife has sweet tooth and its difficult for her to resist the temptation of desserts.
She had a big chunk of that pudding not realizing that she is highly allergic to kiwi. The presentation of this dessert was so appealing that we forgot the fact that my wife is allergic to kiwi skipped my mind altogether.
After some time, she started having swelling inside her mouth and we had to rush to the doctor. Thanks god we it was controlled on time.
We should always be mindful of what we put inside our mouth. Not just on occasions and parties, but in general, we should also be conscious while purchasing packed items from grocery stores and supermarkets.
We should carefully study the ingredients mentioned at the back of those items we purchase and read about what impact do they have on our bodies.
#4 – Don’t Engage in Conversation While Eating
I understand that this may not be possible when you are eating out with your family, at work or when attending social functions.
Under such circumstances it may seem rude if you don’t talk. But it’s always possible to keep your conversations small and to be made only when required.
When you are at home avoid making conversation while eating. You can talk to your family about it and I’m sure they will appreciate your point of view. Your complete focus should be on the food. All activities from lifting the fork to ingesting should be done consciously.
As I said before, even when you are eating out with friends and family, keep conversations to a minimum. We usually tend to get carried away in such an environment and forget about mindfulness.
I have seen people at social gathering getting so excited to speak that they start spitting food out of their mouth while talking. Not only does it look gross but is also bad for health. In such cases probability of food getting stuck or entering the windpipe is quite high.
Be mindful of not putting the fork in your mouth when you’re speaking. When you finish speaking gently bring your attention back to your food, take a slow deep breath and then start eating again. Repeating this over and over again will form a habit.
#5 – Identify Emotional Triggers That Gives Rise to Craving Unhealthy Food
This is something I used to do and because of it I faced lots of health issues. In fact, I had become an addict, and as a result, I was gaining a lot of weight. Also I started suffering from lower back pains and tension headaches. My immune system had weakened and I was under a lot of stress and anxiety.
Every time I was anxious, I used to rush towards the refrigerator and make myself white bread cheese sandwich. I used to hunt for food like a hungry rodent.
Some of you know what I’m talking … ha ha. But it was not funny at that time.
Most of the times I used to overeat and feel sick afterwards. Things reached to a point where it became difficult for me to even walk half a mile. I was suffering both in my professional as well as personal life.
We tend to give into our emotions, and start eating mindlessly whenever we feel anxious, sad, lonely or just bored. The result is that we get a short burst of emotional high, which we do enjoy for a couple of minutes, but feel like crap later on for hours together.
When I adopted mindfulness, I became aware of my emotional triggers. The type of feelings and emotions that caused me to crave junk food. I could see how suppressing my feelings was making me sick inside and out.
It took me over 2 years to get back to good health, I lost 50 pounds of weight, cured my lower back and joint pains. I felt very vibrant and alive and my relationship with people improved drastically. If you want more information on that story, checkout this post.
Practicing mindfulness we learn to distinguish between foods that are emotionally comforting from those that provide nutrition to the body.
#6 – Give Your Brain Time to Process What You Have Eaten
Eating slowly is one of the habits I still am struggling with. Although I have improved a lot now, but still I need to be more mindful in my eating.
After we have eaten our meal it takes our body approximately 20 minutes to signal our brain that we are full. Therefore, eating slowly is very important, otherwise there’s always a possibility to overeat.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the natural ways to slow down your eating is to chew your food properly. Chew each bite 25 times (or more).
Earlier I used to hog my food like a wild animal. I used to be so stressed that I never even bothered to look at my food. Sometimes I even used to wonder I had eaten at all or not.
TIP #: You should be able to recall what you ate in your previous meal. If you failed to do so, you were not mindful while eating.
One of tricky situation is when we eat sweets that contain refined sugar as the main ingredient.
Sugar is seen as a reward by the brain, so the more you eat, harder it becomes to quit. Instead, go for foods with natural sugars such as fruits and nuts.
Mindfulness teaches us to form a deep connection with our food. We need to understand how the food on your plate has originated.
The seeds are sown by the farmers, nature provides the mechanisms which enables those seeds to turn into plants and these are living and breathing organisms.
And after few months of cultivation these plants are uprooted and collected and transported to market from where you purchase them and create those exotic dishes. A lot of hard work goes into it, from farm to fork.
Therefore, it’s important to treat our food with lot of reverence. When we do that, it becomes effortless and natural to express gratitude to all the forces of the universe that contributed in creating this meal.
Our previous generations (in almost every culture) use to say a small prayer before eating food which was graciously laid out on the table. In that prayer we used to thank the lord for providing us. I don’t know many people today still practice that, but that was mindfulness a practice.
You may be getting the impression that mindfulness sounds like living off-grid in the mountains, and seems like a very daunting and challenging goal. But let me assure you it’s not. You don’t have to live like a hermit in order to understand basic principles of mindfulness.
Just following simple practices everyday for few minutes can radically change the way you live. Eating food is the single most important activity in our life because It nourishes the entire body and keeps the soul happy.
Keep above mentioned mindfulness eating exercises handy with you, whenever you sit down to eat. Slowly over time you will build healthy habits that will transform your life in ways you can never even imagine.
If you have any type of medical condition, please consult your doctor before you follow any mindfulness program or make any drastic lifestyle changes.