“If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
As our lives become increasingly busy and a little more stressful, we often find ourselves eating without thinking. Think about this – how many times have you eaten a meal in front of the TV and not even
realised that you’ve finished it until there’s no more food to put on your fork? If this is something that sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s time to consider changing the way in which you enjoy food by incorporating mindful eating into your daily routine.
Mindful eating is all about making the effort to be fully present in the moment during meals; to eat more consciously, to remain focused and to ultimately eat less, while still feeling fully satisfied. It’s a way to not only cut down on the amount of calories that we eat, but to train our bodies and minds to regain the connection between eating and satiety.
7 Steps to Mindful Eating
- Stop eating on autopilot.
Do you eat the same kind of foods at every meal? Do you eat without registering what you’re actually eating? If so, it may be time to shake things up a bit; take a little time to plan your weekly diet and introduce some new, healthy and nutritious foods to savour.
Tip: Pausing before eating, and identifying the name of the food you are going to eat, even saying it inwardly to yourself before taking the first bite, (for example, “now I’m going to enjoy the taste of the” ..whatever the food is!) can help disconnect you from autopilot, and reconnect you with the sensations and pleasure of eating.
The Raisin Exercise, where you take around 3 minutes to eat a raisin, savouring the sight, aroma, texture, taste, how your mouth responds to the raisin when in your mouth, and even the play of light on the surface of the skin of the raisin before eating, is a helpful exercise taught on most Mindfulness (MBSR and MBCT) courses (including ours!), and can be a great first step also in starting to make savouring your food, and noticing what you are eating, a practice.
- Enjoy every bite.
If you’re guilty of literally shovelling food into your mouth, you’ll find that you’ll enjoy your food so much more if you take mindful bites. Use your senses as you eat and breathe in the delicious aromas as it’s not just about the taste. Use your tongue to experience the texture of the food, and chew it thoroughly to release all of the flavours.
- Give eating your full attention.
When pressed for time, it’s tempting to multi-task while eating; we eat at our desks at work, we eat in front of the TV at home and we eat while chatting on the phone. You may thoughtlessly consume a lot more food when you eat whilst watching television, while holding a conversation during meals, though good for your social life, may also distract you from really savouring what you are eating. Give your food 100% attention by turning off the TV, sitting down at a table, pausing even for 20 seconds before ‘diving in’ and concentrating on experiencing each mouthful of food.
- Assess your hunger before and as you eat.
Are you guilty of eating out of habit? Do you eat when you’re not really hungry? Before you put any food in your mouth, ask yourself whether you’re really hungry or whether you’re eating just because it’s a certain time of the day or because you’re feeling stressed or down. Quite often we confuse other emotional signals with hunger. As you’re eating, assess how hungry you feel and aim to eat just enough until you’re satisfied.
- Slow down!
Take breaks while you’re eating; put your fork down, take a drink of water and give your body time to
adjust to the food that you’ve just put into it. Some people find that having a set number of times that they tend to chew each mouthful before swallowing, can be very helpful, especially if you are used to gulping down your food somewhat thoughtlessly.
- Listen to your internal cues.
If you eat in a rush, you don’t give your stomach enough time to signal to your mind that it’s satisfied. Plus, we may be so used to eating without listening to our bodies that we sometimes fail to recognise these signals when they do come.
- Use different or smaller utensils.
Changing the way in which you eat food and what you use to eat it with will enable you to focus more on
what you’re eating – for example, trying to eat with chopsticks for a change, if you’re used to a knife and fork, can force you to slow down and be present as you try to grapple with the co-ordination required to pick up the food in a new way, and even noticing the texture, weight and feeling of your cutlery can help you to be more ‘present’ while eating and more mindful of the whole experience.