In the spirit of Christmas and general over-eating (I’ve definitely had a few too many of everything over this period!) I thought I’d write a post about mindful eating 🙂
We’ve heard it all before…we live in a society where we seemingly have more and more things to do, more and more choices of food, periods of the year like Christmas where we seem to have an abundance of food at our fingertips.
Everything and everyone is in a rush. Fast food is big business, the speed and convenience fits wonderfully into our lifestyles. But I’m not just talking about KFC and Burger King. We’ve made a big shift in the last few years to a better focus on healthy eating which is great for our well-being and overall health.
But how much do we really think about the food that we eat? I’m not just talking about in a general sense, but about the food literally in front of you – the food you’re about to consume. Most of the time we make a conscious decision about what we eat unless, of course, you’re reaching for the first thing that comes to you if you’re in a rush. We all do it. But even if we’ve made that careful decision about what we’re going to eat, sometimes the mindfulness surrounding it stops there.
We can have a tendency to eat mindlessly, whether that’s at work in front of the computer, at home watching TV or just sitting and playing with our phones. There are endless distractions that we may not really be aware of since it’s become a habit. Say, for example, we’re eating a chocolate bar. The first bite tastes great – we always notice how great it tastes. Then the mindless eating begins because we’re either distracted or just stop thinking about what we’re doing. All of a sudden, before we know it, we’re down to the last bit of chocolate. How did that happen?! Suddenly you savour the last bit because you know it’s the last bit and after that, no more. So the mindfulness was present at the beginning and the end but got lost somewhere in the middle. Sound familiar?
So how do we get mindful about our eating? It’s all about creating a connection with the food in front of us – where did it come from? What were the processes that brought it to you? What are the flavours? What are the textures? The first thing you should do is just bring a sense of awareness to the moment by considering these questions.
Find a quiet place to eat
Creating a quiet space away from distractions like the internet, the TV or your smartphone is key. This can be challenging if you’re eating with other people (especially children) but try and agree to take a few minutes to just sit quietly. First think about the questions above – where it came from and how you think it got to be in front of you now.
This is really important and actually a really good habit to get into. Not only is it healthier for our digestions but eating more slowly gives us time to really think about what we’re putting into our mouth. Some of us eat quickly out of habit so this can be quite a challenge (definitely is for me, anyway!) If you’re finding it difficult then you could try and use chopsticks (also a challenge for me despite living in China for 6 months!) this slows it down a lot.
Savour the flavours and textures
Really try to taste the food. This gets more trying after a few bites when our usual habits start to kick in – I wouldn’t necessarily say we get bored of the flavours after a while but we stop noticing them so much and take them for granted. So really savour this time – are there different flavours with each bite? Think about the sweet, the sour, the tanginess, the crunchiness.
Mindful eating is really important in establishing and creating a relationship with our food. It’s about enjoying our food more and appreciating where it’s come from and how it’s made. It’s also really thinking about what we are putting into our body and the choices we are making.
Obviously trying mindful eating for the first time probably won’t work so well sitting at a table with others and a nice big meal in front of you (although this could be a fun activity with others and even good for discussions). So you can start off small – maybe just with a piece of chocolate or fruit. Sit in a quiet room and take your time to practise. There also shouldn’t be any pressure to do this every time you eat something. That can be super difficult even to the most mindful of eaters! It’s just about trying to be more appreciative, more aware and just training the mind to be more present in the moment and hopefully making it more of a habit for happiness in our lives which is never a bad thing 🙂