By Shana Tatum
The mindfulness movement has gained momentum over the last several years, though this ancient practice is more than just a buzzword on magazine covers. The practice of mindfulness can bring peace and ease to those that long for a more intentional way of life. Its benefits aren’t reserved for the meditation cushion, but can be applied at the dinner table, too.
Mindful eating has been described as the process of paying attention to the way you eat without judgment or critique. It can help you improve your relationship with food as well as bolster your mind and body. It provides a healthy and considerate way to connect to your needs for food while listening to hunger cues whether emotional or physical. It promotes freedom, balance, choice and acceptance of what is.
Mindful eating has shown to provide benefits such as: creating focus on the interconnectedness of the planet, people and our diverse cultures; giving an opportunity to tune in to your physical and emotional needs; providing clues into true hunger and satiety; empowering you to make better choices for your health; offering opportunities to feel cared for and nurtured; and bringing awareness and possibility for behavior change from a reactive and repetitive pattern to one that is intentional.
Can you recall your last meal? Can you describe its flavor, texture and colors? Can you remember how you felt while or after eating?
It can be difficult for some to get started with a mindful eating practice, especially in our fast-paced lives. Small steps every day can make a difference. Learning to trust your instincts and that of your body will assist you as you continue the process.
A few ways you can begin to practice mindful eating are:
– Preparing your meal. Many of us are rushed and in a hurried state at the dinner hour. When you slow down to enjoy the smells, notice the textures and colors of what you are cooking, it primes the body for the release of key enzymes necessary for digestion.
– No electronic zone. Put your phone away and make space for your food.
– Eat sitting down. It sounds strange to say, but many people eat standing up, on the run or in the car. Sit. Take a breath. Think of the farmer that worked to bring you the nourishment you are about to enjoy or the loving hands that prepared the food on your plate. Give thanks for the meal before you begin eating.
– Use your senses. Assess you hunger through all your senses, beginning first with your eyes. How does this look? What colors do you see? Then through your nose. What fragrance is present? Do you detect herbs or spices? Then with your ears. Do you hear crunching or sizzle? Are there other sounds? Then with your mouth. What bitter or salty, sweet or sour flavors do you detect? By slowly considering all your senses, you can slowly enjoy your meal more intentionally.
– Rest your fork between bites. Set the fork down between bites and chew your food well. Consider the texture and flavor of foods in your mouth before you pick up the fork again for another bite.
When we slow down and prepare a special meal for ourselves or share it with a loved one, we gain more than just the nutrients in our food. We can set intentions of gratitude and appreciation for the quality time with loved ones and the thoughtful food that was prepared for us. Through a mindful eating practice you can begin to be more curious about your relationship with food and the way you feed the body. Pausing with intentionality and considering the food that gives nourishment will go a long way to maintaining good health.