It’s easy to practice mindful eating when you are on a retreat or in a mindfulness class, but for us every day mortals on a typical day we do not have 5 minutes to contemplate a slice of mango or ten minutes to deliberate every sip of a cup of green tea.
The demands of families, jobs and a myriad of tasks that all needing doing yesterday often mean that mindlessly grabbing a cup of tea and drinking it whilst it is still hot is a major achievement.
The reality is that in our fast paced society we barely get time to eat and enjoy our mealtimes, let alone eat them mindfully. Though, it is true to say that we spend much more time worrying about what we eat rather than how we eat it. Yet, a growing body of research suggests that how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Indeed research suggests that changing our attitudes and practices around meals and mealtime rituals may be just as important as the quality and nutritional credentials of the food we consume.
Mindful eating is not a new fangled idea, instead it is a concept with its roots in Buddhist teachings that aims to reconnect us more deeply with the experience of eating and truly enjoying our food.
It must be said that even when dining out, it is easy to become distracted and not be truly present or mindful in your eating. Indeed, there can be noise from other diners, interruptions and even nerves to deal with during a meal out. Whilst at home it can be difficult to eat mindfully whilst children chatter, the dog needs letting out and the telephone rings; it must be concluded that modern living does not help with mindful eating practices.
So, cast away thoughts of retreat eating and contemplating the intricacies of a berry because let’s face it mindful eating will only work if it can fit into your lifestyle. There again, if you have an hour to spend eating a singular raisin, fantastic! But for those of us that are time poor, approach mindful eating from an every day perspective. Mindful eating is based on the idea that there is no right or wrong way to eat, but rather varying degrees of consciousness about what we are eating and why.
The goal of mindful eating is to become intuitive and then to base our meals on physical cues, such as our bodies’ hunger signals rather than our bodies’ emotional needs for ‘comfort’ through food.
My top tips for mindful eating are:
Eating slowly doesn’t have to mean taking forever to eat a celery stick. Still, it’s a good idea to remind yourself, and your loved ones, that eating is not a race, there is no prize for finishing first.
Taking the time to savour and enjoy your food is one of the healthiest things you can do and is just as important as the nutritional value of the food on your plate. When you take your time to eat, you are more likely to notice when you are full, you’ll chew your food more; aiding your digestion and you’ll probably find yourself noticing flavours, textures and subtle tastes you might otherwise have missed.
It may be very difficult to introduce silence at mealtimes, especially if you have a family, but encouraging and introducing some quiet time and reflection at mealtimes is invaluable. If it is impossible to introduce during main mealtime, then why not introduce a quiet snack time or even a cup of tea that you can savour in silence.
Our daily lives are full of distractions, and it’s not uncommon these days for families to eat with the radio blaring, the television on or whilst fiddling with smart phones or other electronic devices. Consider making mealtimes an electronics-free zone. After all we all need a break from the plague of e-mails flooding in on phones, advertising and television.
When was the last time you really tasted the food you ate? It can be so easy to just shovel food in and treat eating as another chore to perform before moving on to the next task. Paying attention to the flavours and textures of our food can be a great way to start eating mindfully. Exactly what is the texture of an avocado? Why do you love the flavours of your favourite foods?
Do you ever spend time appreciating and contemplating the food on your plate? I’m not talking about you having picked up a pack of green beans from the supermarket with a label that says ‘’the finest’’ what I am talking about is connecting with the story behind your food and really opening your mind up to the possibilities and stories behind the food on your plate. Who grew this? How? Where did it come from? When you start pondering over the food you eat, it is impossible not to be mindful.
Mindful eating is really a simple commitment to appreciating, respecting and enjoying the food you eat every day.
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