Thoughts from a broken mind
In today’s fast-paced world, many people, whether they realize it or not, routinely sacrifice the beauty and wonder of a meal well eaten for a quick morsel scarfed down in between their rush from point A to point B. But the only way to truly achieve vibrant health is to practice the art of mindful eating, which involves devoting special time for meals, eating meals slowly and appreciatively, and of course eating meals that agree with your body’s nutritional profile and needs.
The ultimate goal of eating is not simply to get “full” as quickly as possible in order to move on to the next task. Nourishing your body with the proper foods is a unique and special time during which you have the opportunity to truly relax, converse with others, enjoy a plethora of interesting flavors and textures, and refuel and rejuvenate your body. It is a sacred time, really, and one that plays a critical role in reducing stress, which can lead to chronic health conditions, as well as promoting wellness.
So what does eating mindfully entail? First, it involves setting aside specific time to eat. Something as simple as sitting down at a table, either alone or with friends and family, and savoring a meal in peace is a great way to encourage mindful eating. Grabbing a fast food meal and devouring it in the car on the way back to work, on the other hand, does not facilitate mindful eating.
Choosing foods that are healthy, nutritious, and beneficial for your digestive system is another way to eat mindfully, as such foods will boost your energy levels, promote clear thinking, help you avoid fatigue, and improve your mood. Again, picking up some greasy “comfort” food at the fast food drive-thru and gorging on it, though instantly pleasing for some, will rob your body of energy, and promote feelings of lethargy rather than vibrancy.
“Mindfulness is the attentive awareness of the present moment,” says the blog Stop and Breathe about eating mindfully. “By focusing your attention on the here and now, you can more easily disengage from habitual, unsatisfying and negative behaviors. Mindful eating uses mindfulness practices in the preparation and consumption of food, allowing you to enjoy the positive and nurturing opportunities that food provides.”
Other methods by which to eat mindfully include acknowledging and being thankful for your food, considering where it came from and how it was produced, chewing each bite thoroughly, and using all five of your senses to enjoy your food. You will find that when you engage in these practices and make them part of your normal routine, you will quickly lose a taste for junk food as you realize what it actually is, and what it is doing to your body.
Stop and Breathe‘s full list of recommended guidelines for mindful eating:
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
The 8 essential steps to mindful eating:
1. Make time to eat
In our fast paced society we are often rushed and eat on the go. That prevents us from appreciating our food. Making time to focus on what and how we eat is the most important step to mindful eating. Set aside time to enjoy your meal.
2. Find an appropriate place to eat
It’s important to eat in a place that allows you to focus on your food. Avoid eating in your car, in front of the television or anywhere else that will distract you from your meal. A dinner table is the perfect, dedicated place to practice mindful eating. As you become more comfortable with mindful eating you can practice it elsewhere, such as at a picnic, in a restaurant, or even at a food court table.
3. Acknowledge your food
Before eating, take the time to acknowledge your food. This will mean something different to every person. Perhaps you will choose to say grace, thank Mother Nature, or simply offer a silent word of gratitude to the farmer who cultivated your food. This acknowledgement is not simply an opportunity to give thanks. It also allows you to disengage from what you were doing and turn your focus to the food and experience before you.
4. One bite at a time
As you eat, savor one bite at a time. Take a bite of your meal and place your cutlery down so you can focus on the act of eating. Don’t rush your meal. Chew. Every morsel of food has something to offer, so take time and experience it to the fullest.
5. Use all of your senses
Eating is a very sensual experience. Enjoy it. As you eat, notice the color, texture, taste, smell and even the sound of every bite. Eating something as simple as an apple can become a truly wonderful experience when you admire the bright color, hear the crunch and taste the tart and sweet flavors mixing in your mouth. If you take the opportunity to truly savor the natural flavors of food, you’ll realize that there is no need to smother your meals in sauces and cheese.
6. Listen to your body
Notice how your body reacts to the food you eat, not just while you’re eating, but afterwards. Your body craves nourishing food and will tell you when food is or isn’t good for you. The sight, smell or taste may not always alert you to foods that are unhealthy, but your body never lies. Consider how you feel after eating a salad or piece of fresh fruit. Now compare that to the way you feel after eating a Big Mac and fries. Use those experiences to guide your food choices. I believe that listening to your body is the most important step in gaining control over your diet and achievinghealthy weight loss.
7. Practice hara hachi bunme
Hara hachi bunme is an old Japanese saying that instructs people to stop eating when 80 percent full. It takes time for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. It’s no surprise then that people who devour their meals quickly are habitual overeaters. This Japanese saying is a reminder that you should not simply eat what is available or on your plate, but that you should remain mindful of what you’re eating and listen to your body.
8. Show appreciation for your food
Before finishing your meal, take a moment to appreciate the food you’ve just eaten. Recall your dining experience and notice how you feel. If you’ve practiced mindful eating, chances are you feel satisfied and nourished, not bloated or sick.
More tips for mindful eating:
1. One meal at a time
Poor eating habits are difficult to change, so don’t bite off more than you can chew. At first, choose one meal a day and commit to mindful eating. As you become more comfortable with the practice, start to practice mindful eating throughout your entire day.
2. Practice mindful food preparation
Extend your mindfulness practice to food preparation. Be present and aware when preparing your meals, whether you’re creating a culinary masterpiece or simply pouring a box of cereal. Feel the knife in your hand, listen to the sound of food as it simmers on the stove and notice the color of your ingredients. This mindful approach will make you more familiar with your food and aware where it comes from. Your choice of what to eat, healthy or otherwise, begins at preparation, not when you begin eating.
Check out these tips for healthy home cooking.
3. Dine with family and friends
Mindful eating doesn’t mean dining alone. Enjoy your meals with family and friends. You can still practice mindful eating, and as an added bonus, dining together will strengthen your relationships.
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