This summer many of us will be getting together with our friends and families and firing up the grill. Its easy, when you’re hungry or distracted, to gorge yourself on delicious food. However, did you know that actually taking the time to savour every morsel and enjoy all the wonderful textures and flavors, has an amazing effect on your mind and body like the ability, for example, to help you lose weight? In a world where food is named the enemy and eating is regarded as a sort of sin, there seems to be little hope in making the act of eating an enjoyable one anymore. A notification on our smartphones, an urgent email, or a clickbait news story make the very act of eating a distracted chore. We inhale treats that are deemed naughty without so much as a single groan of pleasure, bypassing all of our favorite parts of the treat. Naturally, many are searching for a way to reconnect with food in a way that is enjoyable and nutritious.
Enter: mindful eating.
Mindful eating is an approach to food that combines the tenets of mindfulness with the very simple act of eating. By being mindful with each bite we are opening communication between our brains and our appetites. By doing this, we are able to be more aware of our bodies’ desires and needs, thus truly feeding it exactly what it wants.
The Mindfulness Approach
Mindfulness is simply the act of being more present in every moment. Though it’s not entirely possible to be deliberately present in each moment of the day, it is the ultimate goal. To begin with, many experts practice mindfulness in small doses, such as with eating.
Being mindful is a lot less tricky than it sounds. It is intentionally being aware of what is happening, both inside and out, in any particular moment. The focus turns to your sensations, your feelings, your emotional reactions, and even your thoughts. Rather than trying to control each of these, the goal is simply to be aware of them.
Awareness is key in mindfulness because it detaches itself from any judgments or guilt. Rather than beating yourself up over your thoughts or cravings or hurry, you are meant to be aware of these things. Being fully aware of your experience, all the good parts as well as the bad, helps you to actually experience the moment. This is the entire idea behind mindfulness.
As you might suspect, mindful eating is just practicing mindfulness while eating. With each bite, attention is paid to the colors, textures, smells, flavors, and even sounds of the food. We also focus our attention on our own experience as we take the bite. What do we feel in our hands, our mouths, our stomachs, even our hearts? What does hunger feel like and, alternatively, what does it feel like to be satisfied?
Mindful eating slows the process of eating down so that we are actually involved in it. It allows us to view food for exactly what it is–a nutritive substance–and enjoy the process in the meantime. It is the perfect antidote to mindless eating, which often contributes to a poor diet and an emotional rollercoaster regarding food.
With a continued practice of mindful eating, we are able to return to the sense of ease and enjoyment in eating we once had as children. It is also the same experience that our ancestors had, too, making it the most natural and healthy way to eat. Breaking old, rushed habits isn’t easy, though. It takes practice and dedication. And, of course, awareness. Start small, perhaps with your morning coffee, and expand from there. Eventually, you will be able to eat mindfully with each meal.