Most of us eat without giving attention to what we are consuming. Be it reading, working, walking, watching TV, or just scrolling through our social media; we're always doing something while we eat.
Let’s be real, how many times (especially on weekdays) do you eat your breakfast with the presence of pure peace in your mind? Probably.. never? Don't worry, you're not alone. We are all in a rush during the morning hours. We contemplate what our day is going to be like as we munch on those eggs and bacon.
It's really the same story with every meal. Even if we are not really thinking, we pick out an activity to do on the side as we eat. The pace that our lives are running at, we hardly get time to grab a bite on the go, so we can juggle between eating and daily chores.
Have you ever observed how the food you’re eating is making you feel? Do you ever pay attention to how an item of food that you are consuming reacts with your body? Before you answer that, let's first talk about what actually is mindful eating.
What does mindful eating mean?
Eating mindfully is all about being present in the moment and focusing solely on your food, right from choosing what to eat to gulping it down. It is not a diet. It is more of a lifestyle. It incorporates the art of mindfulness which is a form of meditation that makes you pay attention to your emotions and sensations.
Being aware of what you're eating is the first step to mindful eating. It gives you an insight into the positive vibes that surround you with the food you are eating and the nutritious value that it brings to your body. Suppose you’re having a glass of juice. If you aimlessly gulp it down, you won’t feel the goodness that it has to surround your body. You won’t feel the nutrients making you happy from within. What a loss!
It does not mean that you have to be wary of the calories you consume. As I mentioned above, it’s not a diet. You don’t have to count the calories every time you think of having a meal. It rather focuses on being attentive and in-the-moment when you shop for food, cook it, serve it, and finally eat it. It’s more about being aware of the signals that your body is giving while you eat or think of eating something.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
Being mindful while eating comes with tons of health benefits. Just by paying attention to what you eat, brings a whole lot of difference in your eating habits and choices.
Let’s say you’re eating an apple. If you’re eating it while scrolling down your Instagram you will miss the feeling of tiny drops of apple juice packed in layers of crunchy textures touching your tastebuds traveling down your throat. Not to forget the nutritional value it brings with it!
Here are some of the benefits of mindful eating:
● It eliminates stress and anxiety - allows you to take a break from all the chaos while eating
● It prevents you from overeating - focusing on every bite makes the process slower and gives you a sensation of being full sooner.
● It provides pleasure - gives you an opportunity to appreciate your food as you eat slower
● It betters digestion as you take your time to chew properly
● It helps you make better food choices by focusing on your body’s sensations
● It satiates cravings by snacking healthy, therefore, helping in losing weight
● It makes you eat better in a more balanced way
How to practice mindful eating?
It’s not rocket science, but a pretty simple process. All you need is the presence of mind and a break from your daily activities to drive all your focus solely to the serving of food or drink you’re having. Be it your morning coffee!
If you find your attention straying away, bring it right back to your plate. Think about how mother nature made a small seed into the product that you’re eating, how it traveled from one corner of the world to your plate, how you incorporated different ingredients in the perfect ratio, and how the final dish is ultimately making you feel. Not that hard, right?
You don’t have to be mindful throughout the eating process. If you’re a beginner, start with eating mindfully for 5-minutes and gradually increase the time. I bet you’ll enjoy it.
Let me break it to you. Just follow these step by step instructions and feel the change;
1. As you sit down to eat, take a few breaths to relax before you start.
2. Consider your health as a blessing and your food an even bigger blessing
3. Utilize your senses. Feel the sensations, see the goodness, smell the aroma, touch the texture, listen to the crunch.
4. Observe the reaction of your body. How does it feel in the mouth? How does the stomach feel?
5. After every bite, check if you’re still hungry. Listen to your stomach. Sometimes we tend to eat out of pure boredom.
6. Appreciate the food. The taste, the smell, the overall feeling. Chew slow.
7. Put the cutlery down between bites. Focus on chewing thoroughly.
8. Pay gratitude to everyone involved in bringing the food to your plate. Plants, animals, farmers, transporters - everyone!
9. If you’re still hungry, continue eating at a slow pace.
Is it practical in our busy lives?
You might think that it’s quite unrealistic to practice mindful eating with a busy schedule where you have no other option than eating on-the-go. There are situations where you just have 5-minutes to grab a bite or starve for the rest of the day. You can’t always sit without any thoughts distracting you so you can focus on every bite and appreciate it. These all are valid concerns. However, there’s something you can do.
Even if you eat at your desk while working, take a moment, and focus all your attention on your food. Just a moment, it won’t take long. Pay attention to the reason you’re eating. Are you hungry or are you bored? Pay attention to the food you’re eating. Does it have the nutrients required for your body or are you in need of something emotionally comforting? Take your mind off your electronic devices and focus!
Every second matters. You don’t have to do it throughout the time you’re eating. Start with a couple of minutes. See the change for yourself. Trust me, you won’t regret it.