I have recently started doing yoga again, and am loving it. Yoga is something that comes in and out of my life, but it is always there for me when I need it.
Practicing yoga has made me think a lot about mindfulness, as mindfulness is such an integral part of yoga. If you are new to the term… Mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment” (Wikipedia).
Being in the moment, and aware of your body is such a powerful thing, but with the fast pace of modern living, it can be VERY hard to achieve. These days we are always racing onto the next thing before we even finish the first, not to mention constantly being bombarded and distracted with text messages, email and social media. Does not sound very mindful or present!
Now what has any of this got to do with food or eating….. actually quite a lot. Mindfulness can be applied to eating, and is SO important. For most of us…….we are extremely privileged to live with an abundance of food, in fact it is everywhere. Eating has transformed from being something we do simply to survive, to being something we do because we are; surrounded by it, or we are bored, or for some, obsessed with eating or dieting, or we are feeling sad…. the list goes on. Realistically the motivation to eat these days is rarely due to genuine hunger.
I know that personally I have been guilty of inhaling a muesli bar in the car on the way to work, possibly not even tasting what I am eating, or having dinner in front of the tv, once again my brain completely elsewhere, and lucky to even register I have actually consumed food. Or eating lunch at my work desk whilst sending emails…. are you getting the idea?
So if we could apply mindfulness to eating what would that actually mean?
It would mean we would eat in the moment, being aware of the sensations, how it makes us feel, how it tastes, and the pleasure of eating it. When we choose to eat mindfully we are also more likely to choose foods that will….
*nourish, or provide satisfaction
*be aware of our natural hunger cues
*be aware of when we reach satiety (satisfaction)
* recognise when we are eating for emotional reasons, and therefore potentially be able to stop
Sounds great…. but how do we actually put it into practice?
The first thing we need to do when we eat is to SLOW DOWN. And at first you actually really need to exaggerate this to get the idea.
Before you even start, make sure you are sitting down, preferably at a dinner table. Make sure the TV is off, or anything else that can distract you. Then take a good LOOK at your food, before taking a bite….acknowledge what is on your plate. Then SMELL your food, awaken your senses. And then and only then take a very small mouthful, and just feel the TEXTURE in your mouth. Finally you can start to chew and TASTE, but very slowly. Actually chew properly, take the time to notice the the flavour, how it feels in your mouth, and how it makes you feel – pleasure, enjoyment, dislike etc. You may be amazed to find that your food tastes more intense, the flavours more alive. And finally, SWALLOW, be aware of the food passing down your digestive tract.
Now obviously it is not realistic to eat an entire meal in this fashion, as it takes a LONG time, but is worth doing the first few times to truly get the concept. Once you have, you can eat a little more quickly, whilst still adopting mindful practices.
Another trick I like to do, is eat my first few mouthfuls as above, to tap into being mindful, block out exterior distraction and be in the moment. Then you can continue the rest of your meal, with mindfulness already being ‘turned on’. As you practice mindfulness more, you will find that you can be mindful even when eating at a shopping centre food court or the like, it just takes practice.
And the benefits? Eating mindfully can be……
*a crucial tool in weight management
* improving mental health, and our relationship with food
* help us respect and acknowledge the food we put into our mouth
* help us enjoy the ritual of eating a meal (which so many of us have lost the art of doing)
* assist in making better or healthier food choices
* help us realise when we reach satiety and therefore be less likely to over eat.
Definitely sounds worth giving a try don’t you think? And would love to hear anyones experiences of eating mindfully, and if it has helped you?