Eating is one of the most pleasurable experiences we can have as human beings. But how many of us have eaten a snack or even a full meal without really noticing what we are doing? If we focus on eating mindfully, we can turn this into a richer experience which will satisfy our senses and our nutritional needs.
Try these steps the next time you eat to bring mindfulness to every meal.
All too often we immediately move from one task to another and for many eating is no different. We find ourselves grabbing a snack on the go and eating in front of the TV or the computer. In these situations, we are not thinking or focusing on what we are putting into our body or our responses. By pausing and taking a breath, we allow for a calmer transition into our mealtimes. Bring your attention inwards and begin with 8 to 10 slow breaths in and out before the start of your meal.
Listen to the physical sensations in your belly. We often tell ourselves we are hungry when in fact we need some other focus or are just fitting in because it’s lunch or suppertime. Try asking yourself ‘how hungry am I on a scale of 1 to 10?'. Consider what your physical hunger sensations are, such as shaking, stomach growling or a feeling of emptiness. Listen to your body and not just your thoughts. Try not to focus on when you last ate or what the time is.
Once we are in touch with our needs and are focused on our hunger we can mindfully choose when and what to eat and most importantly, how much. By following this simple practice, we can tune in to our real needs. Frequently the food we think we want is not actually what our body is calling out for.
At your next meal don’t forget to SLOW DOWN and continue to breathe deeply whilst you are eating. Avoid other distractions and focus on your hunger levels. Put your cutlery down between every mouthful. Consider the sensations whilst eating such as heat, taste, or texture, which all add to the full experience. By eating slowly and mindfully your body will be better able to digest your food and ensure that all the goodness and nutrients are extracted efficiently.
Finally, and in many ways the most important thing of all…
If you don’t love it…… don’t eat it
In reality, we know what we should or should not be eating. Although our tastes do change over time, we all agree that there are some things we just don’t like. It could be the taste, the texture, or sometimes just the look of a food that puts us off.
Take your first two or three bites mindfully, and experience the tastes, flavours, textures and see how much enjoyment you get from a food. By doing this at each meal you can be sure you’re making good choices about what to eat based on what you really love and enjoy.