It can be human nature to go through life on autopilot. Have you ever been driving only to arrive at your final destination without any recall of the journey?
Let’s face it, we are living this life distracted. Whether it be cell phones, the latest reality TV series, or concerns about the current political climate, our attention is anywhere except the present moment. Mindfulness means waking up to the present and paying attention to whatever is around us. Whether it be as mundane as washing the dishes in the morning or as invigorating as contemplating the vastness of the universe on a starry night, mindfulness simply means being awake and aware.
Mindfulness can be defined as awareness of the present moment without judgement. To practice mindfulness our intention is two-fold: to pay attention to our experience in the here and now, and to do so in a self-compassionate, accepting way.
Now, can you see how this could be applied to eating? Let’s look at our two mindfulness components.
Paying attention to our present experience
Have you ever mindlessly munched on food, past the point of fullness or disinterest, not stopping until the food is gone and only then noticing that you haven’t enjoyed the food nor do you feel satisfied? Mindful eating involves paying attention, using all five senses. Noticing the visual appeal and the enticing aroma before taking a bite. Savoring the flavor and texture of the food. For example, imagine taking a bite of a fresh peach in the summer, noticing the bright aroma, the sweet taste, the firm yet soft texture, and especially the refreshing juice that drips down your chin.
Awareness also involves noticing physical sensations as you eat -the rumbling in your stomach, salivating, and the changes in your feelings of fullness. Awareness can include attention to your physical and emotional experience after eating as well.
Practicing non-judgement and self-compassion
We often have opinions about our food choices. They can be thoughts that label our choices as “good” or “bad.” Good foods are those believed to be healthy and somehow make you a better person if you eat them. Bad foods are those believed to be damaging to your body and make you bad if you eat them. Mindful eating involves letting these judgements go. When practicing mindfulness, we can acknowledge our responses to food without labeling our choices as good or bad.
TIPS FOR PRACTICING MINDFUL EATING:
- Before eating, pause to assess if you are physically or emotionally hungry.
- Rate your hunger level from 1 to 10.
- Remove or limit distractions during mealtime (turn off computers, TV, screens).
- Pause before eating to breathe and take in the visual appearance and fragrance of the food.
- Every time you take a bite, take in the flavors and textures of the foods.
- Practice gratitude for all the components of the meal.
Mindful eating can help lead to embodiment, empowerment, and a better relationship with food and our body. It is how a person can gather data about food and their body individually.
You can ask, “Is this food, in this moment, working for me physically?” If the answer is yes, you may choose to eat more of this food. If the answer is no, that’s ok too, but now you have more data. Similarly, asking yourself “Am I eating this food, in this moment, because I am sad/angry/upset/lonely?” will provide you with valuable input and connection to your emotional self.
The bottom line is that through mindfulness and awareness you are empowered to make decisions based on how your body feels after consuming a certain food, instead of making decisions based on what TV or social media labels as ‘good’ or ‘must try’.
For free downloadable mindful eating meditations see: www.thecenterformindfuleating.org
Interested in learning more? Schedule an appointment with Anna to get support on your journey to holistic and kind health.
|Written by our nutritionist and mental health counselor, Anna Cannata, MS, LMHC, CN|