You might have heard of mindfulness in association with meditation and yoga. While mindfulness is very much a part of both practices, mindfulness can also be practiced in other ways, such as during mealtimes.
What is mindfulness?
As defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Full Catastrophe Living, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Mindfulness is taking full account of everything being experienced by the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell – and allowing it to happen without making judgements or assumptions on what is being experienced.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is taking this practice of mindfulness, that is, being fully present without judgement, into the experience of eating. It allows you to slow down, paying attention only to the food on your plate, in order to truly experience a moment of peace and relaxation.
Mindful eating takes a bit of time and practice to get comfortable with. For example, if you’re eating a dish which has an odd texture or simply doesn’t taste good to you, it might be tempting to cast judgement and declare, “This meal is gross.” Mindful eating, on the other hand, would acknowledge that yes, this combination of spices on this kind of meat doesn’t please you, and that’s all. No judgement, just an observation of how it makes you feel.
How can I practice mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a relatively simple practice, and it begins before you even sit down to your meal. It begins at the grocery store, in fact.
We’ve all gone grocery shopping without a list, or when we’re hungry, and therefore started randomly throwing whatever sounds good into the basket. While this might be satisfying in the moment, it isn’t likely to lead to healthy choices, or even ingredients which go together to make a whole meal. In order to mindfully grocery shop, plan out ahead of time the meals you’d like to prepare for the week, then take stock of what you already have in order to complete a list of what you need. Not only will this save you time in the long run, it can also save you money.
In addition, another benefit of mindfully shopping gives you the chance to select healthy, nutritious items. While shopping in a hurry can lead to lots of high sugar, salt, fat and low nutrient content, mindful shopping gives you the time to focus on saying no to those items, and saying yes to foods like fruits and veggies, high protein meats, whole grains and oats and plant-based dairy products.
Mindfulness is using all five senses to experience the world around you. When it comes to preparing mindfully, you’ll want to put all five senses into practice. Pay attention to what the ingredients feel like in your hands – are they wet, dry, crumbly, slimy, sticky? Do they smell strong, weak, bitter or sweet? What do they sound like when you cut them up, stir them or fry them?
Different factors come into play in addition to using all the senses and eating without judgement. To practice mindful eating, take the time to –
Put away all distractions – Eating in front of the tv, computer or even cell phone screen is distracting. Eating just becomes something you’re doing, not something you’re focusing your attention on. Plus, when paying attention to something other than your food, you’re not as tuned in to your body’s signals, such as when it’s full.
Notice why you’re eating – Are you truly hungry and is it time for a meal? Are you eating because you’re bored? Has it become a habit in conjunction with your evening tv show?
Listen to your body – When you pay attention to your body while you eat, you’re more clued into signals between your stomach and your brain telling you to stop eating, you’re full. This makes you much less likely to overeat.
Eat with attention – If you pay attention to your food, such as bite sizes and temperature, as you eat, you’ll eat slowly, as well as enjoy the sensation of flavor and texture more. Intentionally paying attention to the tastes can help you discover new favorite herb combinations. It can help you realize the perfect way to cook chicken to make it tender, and it can help you eat slowly, preventing overeating and promoting relaxation.
In a world where we’re so busy and eager to move from one thing to the next, sitting down and eating restfully isn’t just different, it’s rebellious. So treat yourself well, and give yourself permission to mindfully eat. Your body and mind will be grateful.
Take care of your health, physically and mentally
Mindful eating doesn’t just benefit the body, it benefits the mind. In fact, mindfulness in general has been shown to reduce chronic pain, depression, anxiety, stress, lower blood pressure and improve sleep quality in many individuals. It’s truly a mind-body practice with holistic benefits to match.
To learn more about mindfulness, or to get in touch with someone who can help you find holistic treatment, contact Tapestry today at 828-490-4032.