Mindful Eating, Mindful Life
Mindful Eating, Mindful Life
Many of us have all eaten mindlessly, we see food we enjoy and it has to be eaten, even when we are full we still keep going. This happens a lot over the festive seasons. The delicious spread is on the table in various sized, shapes and colored dishes, bowls, platters, plates, jugs and glasses. A smorgasbord of food that will tempt everyone. It is so inviting. How easy this is when you are trusting your mind senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. In your mind and triggers the senses and we are already anticipating the delight and joy we will experience when that rich sweetness enters your mouth, you image our sheer happiness eating that chocolate cake. Every bite will make your day. How can we control these feelings which can leads us to more serious problem if this desire is affecting us every day. Many people crave processed junk foods that lead to very serious chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and obesity. Chronic diseases are sneaky they are causing damage quietly for years and by the time you realize there is something serious wrong it can be fatal.`
Mindfulness is a skill of all humans possess. You become mindful when you decrease your thinking and increase your awareness. Focus your attention on the present moment. Let go of any worries about the past or future. Be aware of any thoughts and emotions that pop into your head. Rather than letting them take over your mind, just observe them. Don’t judge them or analyze them, just notice them and then let them float away like clouds.
Mindful Eating, or eating mindfully is not about what you eat, but HOW and WHY you eat. It is not about judging your choices or yourself but instead focuses on the HERE and NOW of eating. By paying close attention to taste, textures, and sensations, you can savor each bite and get more enjoyment out of your food. You will be in tune with your bodily reactions, helping you to eat just the right amount and type of food that you need at that time. Here is an example of the unconscious eating most of us do: Think of the first bite of a food you love…maybe it is a piece of chocolate. You have been looking forward to enjoying it and the saliva builds in your mouth as you unfold the wrapper. You bite into it and are totally immersed in its sweetness, richness, and smoothness. It is so delicious, and you are happy to be eating it. Then you begin to talk with the person you are sitting with, or glance back up to the TV, and the flavor in your mouth decreases. Then you are chewing without noticing the chocolate at all, and it has disappeared before you realize it. Mindful eating is about recreating that “first bite” delight in each bite of your food. When your mind is disengaged from eating, you are not satisfied and seek out more food, even when you are full. When you connect with your eating experience, reflect on the source of the food, those who prepared it, those eating around you, and the sensations in your body, you will feel more satisfied regardless of what or how much you are eating. Mindful eating can make anyone’s eating healthier and more nurturing, regardless of weight or nutritional status.
You learn to pay attention to Mindful Eating, Mindful Life:
- Why you feel like eating, and what emotions or needs might be triggering the eating.
- What you’re eating, and whether it is healthy or not.
- The look, smell, taste, feel of the food you’re eating.
- How it makes you feel as you taste it, as you digest it, and throughout the day.
- How full (or sated) you are before, during and after eating.
- Your emotions during and after eating.
- Where the food came from, who might have grown it, how much it might have suffered before it was killed, whether it was grown organically, how much it was processed, how much it was fried or overcooked, etc.
Eating with Intention and Attention:
My favorite definition of mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Consider how much of an impact these simple yet powerful concepts can have on the choices you make:
- Eat with intention. Be purposeful when you eat.
- Eat when you’re truly hungry.
- Eat to meet your body’s needs by choosing food that is nourishing and satisfying.
- Eat with the goal of feeling better when you’re finished than you did when you started.
- Eat with attention. Devote your full attention to eating.
- Eliminate or minimize distractions.
- Tune into the ambiance, flavors, smells, temperature, and texture of the food.
- Listen to your body’s cues of hunger and fullness.
Honor all the thoughts, feelings, and moods that pass through us on a given day, we create a more conscious relationship with ourselves. Instead of blocking out thoughts and feelings that we label as negative, we can simply observe them and then let them go. They only get stuck when we react to them negatively, pushing them down and out of sight where they get lodged in our unconscious minds. A healthier solution might be to develop a practice of following any negative thought we may have with a positive thought. This works well because positive thoughts are many times more powerful than negative thoughts.
Learn how to become more aware of your body, your thoughts, and your feelings and take the right action at the right time. As you develop your mindful eating skills, you’ll likely discover that intention and attention are valuable in other aspects of your life too!
When we recognize our true inner worth, a few dark clouds passing through our minds will not intimidate us. We will see them for what they are–small, dark figures passing through an expansive sky of well-being and truth.
Why should you eat mindfully?
• It can lead to positive and lasting change, because eating mindfully is not about restrictive diet choices.
• Food becomes something to enjoy, rather than a temptation or regret.
• It slows down the pace of your meals, allowing your brain time to hear the “I’m full” signals from your stomach, which may help weight loss.
• It optimizes digestion. Some research has shown that when our attention is not focused on eating, our digestive process is 30-40% less effective than it should be, which leads to gas, bloating, and discomfort.
• Mindfulness can increase your awareness of the source of your food, which encourages buying local and/or organic if you are able.
• Mindful eating, Mindful life with family fosters deeper connection. It also allows you to model healthy eating behaviors for your children.
Try these Mindful Eating Exercises:
- Take one bite of an apple slice and then close your eyes. Do not begin chewing yet. Try not to pay attention to the ideas running through your mind, just focus on the apple. Notice anything that comes to mind about taste, texture, temperature and sensation going on in your mouth.
- Begin chewing now. Chew slowly, just noticing what it feels like. It’s normal that your mind will want to wander off. If you notice you’re paying more attention to your thinking than to the chewing, just let go of the thought for the moment and come back to the chewing. Notice each tiny movement of your jaw.
- In these moments you may find yourself wanting to swallow the apple. See if you can stay present and notice the subtle transition from chewing to swallowing.
- As you prepare to swallow the apple, try to follow it moving toward the back of your tongue and into your throat. Swallow the apple, following it until you can no longer feel any sensation of the food remaining.
- Take a deep breath and exhale. Reflect: What did you notice while chewing? Why did you swallow? Was the food no longer tasty? Did it dissolve? Were you bored? Each bite does not need to be consumed as meticulously as this exercise.
Do this with the first bite of each meal, and you will lay the groundwork of mindfulness for the other bites too.
Am I Hungry? A huge part of mindful eating is being aware, that is, not eating as a reflex. When you feel hunger, pause, and bring awareness to that moment. Perhaps your mind/body/spirit needs something other than food to nourish it. Breathe deeply a few times, and do your best to determine the source of your appetite.
Eye hunger: the type of hunger that causes us to eat even when our bodies are full, after seeing the dessert menu, or driving by a billboard of a big, juicy burger. Much research has shown that it is very powerful and can override all other signals of fullness. Serve a meal for yourself as you would for guests, on your best plates and silverware. Look at something beautiful or interesting, truly contemplate and appreciate it for a few minutes, imagine its energy flowing into you and nourishing you.
Nose Hunger: scents and flavors entice us to eat, such as smelling the movie theater popcorn. Before eating, smell your food. How many smells can you detect? How does the taste change as you breathe in and out? How long does the taste linger after you swallow? Sit quietly and smell a spice, vanilla, or incense. Sniff your partner or your baby’s head. Let these aromas fill you up.
Mouth Hunger: the mouth is a “sensation junkie” constantly wanting new flavors and textures. When we do not pay attention to what happens in our mouth as we eat, the mouth feels constantly deprived. Fill your plate with foods of several different textures, e.g. cold, crunchy carrots and warm, creamy potatoes. Focus your attention on the sensations in your mouth. Chew each bite 15-20 times, noticing the intricate movements of your tongue. Swallow and notice how your mouth hunger has changed.
Stomach Hunger: Many sensations contribute to “hunger pangs,” but they are not always a signal that your body needs fuel. Your stomach may ask for food because you haven’t eaten all day or simply because it is lunchtime. You may confuse the anxious feeling in your stomach as hunger. Learn more about stomach hunger by delaying eating when you feel hungry. Notice the sensations, feelings, and thoughts you are experiencing. Does the feeling pass? Do you feel stomach hunger at the same time each day? Are you hungry each time a deadline is approaching or when you think of a friend that you miss? If your stomach is asking for something sweet, notice how you feel. Are you tense? Maybe your body is not asking for food right now but needs a break. Stretch and take a few deep breaths, enjoy a walk outside, or slowly savor a cup of tea.
Cellular Hunger: your body craves what it needs to optimally function, but most of us have lost our ability to hear what it is saying. Before you decide what to eat, or while at the grocery store, ask your body what it needs. Maybe it is bright-colored vegetables or some sustaining healthy fat and protein. Perhaps you are just thirsty. This may sound strange or difficult, but just listen to what your gut tells you.
Mind Hunger: Thoughts such as “I should eat less fat,” “I should eat more at lunch because I may not have time to make dinner tonight,” and “I deserve an ice cream cone” are examples of mind hunger. What your mind tells you changes based on the latest scientific study or your life situation. It can cause you to get caught up in extremes of “eat this, not that,” habits which can’t be sustained long term. “Dr. Bays writes, “When we eat based upon the thoughts in the mind, our eating is usually based in worry.” This form of hunger cannot be satisfied by food but is satisfied when we quiet our minds.
- Y. Times: Mindful Eating as Food for Thought
- Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life
- Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food
- University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine fammed.wisc.edu/integrative
Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung