What is Mindful Eating?
How do you eat lunch each day? Are you a ‘sit at the kitchen table and take in the experience of your food’ kind of person, or more of an ‘eat at your desk or shovel something down in the car on the way to your next meeting’ type of eater?
What about dinner? Or your morning coffee? Are you eating or drinking while standing at your kitchen counter or on the phone? Or sitting down and taking your time with each bite? Are you the person at the restaurant on their phone the whole time or enjoying the company you’re with?
Many of us have become accustomed to being “on the go” and eating can often feel like a chore we have to fit into the day. You may have heard the term “fight or flight” which occurs when we are in a stressful state, needing to react or filled with emotion. The opposite of “fight or flight” is referred to as “rest and digest” mode. This is the stage we are meant to live in 80% of the time. This state is typically when we are relaxing, sleeping and yes…eating. It’s meant to give our body a rest and when we eat, we are gaining benefits when we take time to chew and enjoy our meals. That is how we were built and meant to live!
So, why does this matter?
Mindful eating allows us to:
- Be grateful for the food we’re consuming
- Take time to enjoy our favorite meals and acknowledge consumption. And if you don’t like salad (for example), indulge in something you actually like!
- Give our minds a break from work or more stressful activities
- Recognize when we’re full! When we mindfully eat, our bites tend to be slower which gives our bodies more time to tell us when we are full. (In turn, this can help us consume less and keep our calories down).
Next time you eat a meal, do it without distraction.
- Look at the colors of your food
- How does your meal look? How is it prepared?
- How does it make you feel?
- How does it smell?
- What tastes come to life with each bite?
This past November, I had the opportunity to live in Argentina for the month and practiced mindful eating. You start to notice how beautiful food can be and that dominoed into me feeling grateful not only for the food I was consuming, but also the place I was at, how it was prepared and other things in my life. When we take time for ourselves and to appreciate everything we are taking in physically or mentally, it allows us to see things in a different light.
However, this is not an easy thing to adopt! We are so accustomed to being stimulated by technology, eating in silence or with your own thoughts can feel uncomfortable, so start with doing it at the beginning of your meal, or 1 meal a day and build onto this over time. It can be very challenging to change how we are conditioned, but the key is always starting off with something small and on your own terms. Try treating yourself to a fancy coffee or lunch that you can eat in silence and really indulge all of your senses in.