Is there a right or wrong way to eat?
Does this question nag at you as you think about what to make the family for dinner? Does it paralyze you as you walk through the grocery store? Does it cause you to throw your hands in the air, yell “forget it!” and out of spite order the hamburger and fries for lunch?
Let me free you. Switch this question for another one: “why am I eating this?” Instead of asking a question that makes you have a right or wrong/good or bad attitude towards food, this question leads you to eating for nourishment, satisfaction, and dare I say it, enjoyment.
Enter mindful eating. *This principle aims to reconnect us more deeply with the experience of eating food.* The idea is to make us aware of what we are eating and why. The goal is to base our food choices on physical cues, such as our bodies’ physical hunger signals (as in your stomach is growling) not emotional hunger signals (as in reaching for the M&Ms because you are bored). Eating with intention also means not depriving yourself of favorite foods, but truly taking pleasure in the process of eating them, from preparation to consumption. When we enjoy every bite of food, we are satisfied without over indulging.
Have you ever really thought about what you are eating when you are eating it? This is hard to do! Maybe because you find yourself so focused on your project list or your next meeting that you don’t remember what you just ate for lunch. Maybe you are so busy feeding others that you don’t remember what you fed yourself. Maybe you are so confused about how and what to eat that you just don’t care anymore.
Mindful eating promotes optimal health, physically and emotionally. Research has shown that mindful eaters have lower body weight, a greater sense of well-being, and fewer symptoms of eating disorders than those who are not intentionally mindful of what they are eating. It can also reduce how much you eat, foster weight loss, and help diabetics control blood sugar levels. Plus, isn’t life more enjoyable when you savor every bite of that ice cream cone?!
Whether we are rushing from one appointment to the next or we are so hungry that we devour our meal in 5 minutes, we can all tend to mindlessly eat. How do we change this habit? Below are 5 ways to help you start eating with intention:
1. Eat slowly
2. Savor the silence
- Eating a meal is not a race. Take time to savor each bite. One way to do this is take a bite of food, set down your fork or spoon, and chew that bite of food. Then take a deep breath. We so quickly inhale our food, we forget to actually chew it and breathe between bites. When you chew your food, it makes it easy to digest. Therefore you are more likely to notice when you have had enough to eat.
3. Notice the flavor
- Turn off the phone. Turn off the TV. Turn off the computer. Try to actually enjoy a meal in silence or good conversation with your family or friends. You will begin to take notice of the flavors and textures of the food. Your mind and body will be in more of a peaceful place allowing you to not only enjoy the food, but be able to more easily digest and absorb the nutrients from the food as well.
4. Know your food
- Have you ever noticed the tanginess of an orange? Or the zesty kick of garlic? Or the crunch of an almond? Take time to notice these flavors and textures. You may find you actually enjoy some food that you assumed you would never like.
5. Be grateful for your food
- Knowing the story behind the food you eat gives you a deep appreciation of that food. When we gain a deeper appreciation of food, we find we eat it differently, more mindfully. Ask some questions: “where did this food come from? who grew this food? how did it get here?” Even if you don’t always know the answers, it stirs curiosity which can eventually lead you to change your shopping and eating habits.
- A grateful heart and mind allows us to live in the moment. When we live in the moment, we become conscious of the miracle of life. Life is nourished by the food we eat. We begin to savor that nourishment and grateful for it giving us the ability to be all we are created to be.
In conclusion, mindful eating is really all about appreciating, respecting, and enjoying the food you eat. In time, you will find eating this way changes your cravings, your grocery store cart, and your restaurant choices which in turn enables you to live fully (and freely) with your best health.