When is the last time you truly tasted your food? Seriously. Think on that one for a minute. A hazy memory of the first bite of your last meal doesn’t qualify. There is very little enjoyment in that. Have you ever considered why you choose to eat a certain food? While there are many answers to this question, the number one reason tends to be taste. Yet, we rarely taste our food! Our fast paced lives have caused many of us to disengage and this includes our eating experiences. Fortunately, we can always make the choice to be present. We can bring the joy back to our tables and we can start right now; here’s how.
Enough of the dieting and deprivation. Let’s embrace a few new ideas: self-love, self-respect and joy. That sounds lovely, doesn’t it? This is about a change of perspective. It’s about harnessing gratitude and that includes food gratitude.
The first step in any type of change can feel overwhelming so we are going to simplify things a bit. Wellness doesn’t have to be complicated. You may actually be surprised to learn that YOU possess the knowledge and intuition to care for yourself in a meaningful way. You simply have to slow down enough to listen, and that’s where mindfulness comes into play.
What is mindful eating?
With roots in Buddhist philosophy, mindful eating, or intuitive eating, is a practice that aims to connect us more deeply with the act of eating.
Why is mindful eating important?
When we are mindful of our physical and emotional cues we can better understand why we eat, why we choose certain foods and what our body needs. We can also engage in our cooking, shopping and eating experiences which will result in joy! Yes, joy. This is food gratitude 101.
Set a Positive Intention.
Mindful eating is meant to create more joyful eating experiences, which is a far cry from dieting and deprivation. Positive results are rooted in positive intentions and your intention can act as an affirmation of sorts, a touch point for you to fall back on when you feel your mind is a bit out of control.
Try This: The affirmation or intention, “I eat to nourish my body” is rooted in self-love and self-respect. It feels good, doesn’t it? This is my go-to reference when I create a plate of food and it’s not about perfection. You favorite foods have a place on this plate. When I think of nourishing foods they tend to be whole foods. They have not been processed or refined in any way. Whole foods, like fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients which your body needs to thrive! When we eat to nourish our body it is not about depriving ourselves of our favorite foods but rather about bringing awareness to why we are eating and to create more moderate behaviors that promote overall wellness.
Mindful eating practices require us to slow down which creates the space for awareness. Awareness is good. This is the root of any meaningful change. How do I become more aware of myself and my decisions? It starts with a few purposeful breaths. When we take time to breathe we give ourselves the gift of awareness. We become aware of our emotions and the way our body feels. It’s about curiosity though. Not judgement. I used to think I ate a ton of veggies. Then I took the time to check in and I realized I was not a super veggie eater after all. Instead of shaming myself, I was proud. Proud that I took the time to bring awareness to my actions. Proud that I now had the information I needed to make a positive change. Take the time to breathe before, during and even after a meal gifts you the opportunity to make a decision that is outside of your norm, to override habits.
Try This: Before each meal, pause to take 5 grounding breaths. Connect with yourself. Are you hungry? Bored? Anxious? Habitually eating? I’m talking to you, “evening snack”. If you are hungry, eat. If you realize that you have connected with an emotional cue, nurture your emotion, rather than feed it.
Nurture Your Emotions.
Feeding our emotions doesn’t change them. If anything, it exacerbates the negative emotions by piling on guilt and shame. Joy does not reside here so I try not to either. I used to swim in those shameful emotions and it was awful. Now, I blissfully float in my happy pool instead.
This is big stuff. I get it. You are probably saying, “it’s easier said than done”, right? Yes, it can be hard but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. The hardest things usually have the greatest outcome. I am learning this over and over and over again as of late. So, If you realize you aren’t hungry, connect with the emotion that you may be feeling and consider other, more helpful ways you can nurture it.
Try This: Maybe you take a bath? You can call a friend or take a walk. Take the space to breathe. Your breath is very good at nurturing your emotions. You can cry. A good cry is such an amazing release of emotion. You can roll out a yoga mat and move your body. Honor yourself. This can look like a few gentle poses or a more vigorous vinyasa. I have days when I roll out my mat and rest in child’s pose and that is that. It all helps. Remember that perfection doesn’t exist. Be as compassionate with yourself as you would be with a friend.
Practice Food Gratitude.
Do you honor your food? This goes hand in hand with that intention to nourish your body. When we feel grateful for the food on our plate we feel as excited to enjoy a carrot as we would a cookie. It’s all about perspective and focusing on our intention which is rooted in a deep sense of gratitude and love for our body. Yes friends, we should love our body. Our body is our vehicle during our life, without it, we would not be alive. Love on it, no matter your size or shape.
Try This: Pause for a moment of food gratitude before you prepare and/or enjoy a meal. Consider your intention to nourish your body. What does that mean to you? Name something you love about yourself or your body? Do it, even if it feels funny or hard. Then you can reflect on the beautiful, vegetable centric plate of food sitting before you. Consider the hardworking hands that took part in the process of getting it to your plate. Consider the many people across the world that are food insecure, which is a great way to create a positive perspective on the foods you are fortunate to eat. Consider your ancestors and the foods and traditions they have passed down to you. From traditional dishes to food preparations like fermented vegetables, connect with the medicinal foods that has been shared with us from generations past.
Savor each bite.
It’s time to taste your food! It’s true, we often choose the foods we want to eat based on the way they taste and the flavors we enjoy, but we rarely take the time to enjoy them. When is the last time your truly tasted your food? One mindful eating practice involves us taking a bite of food and then tasting it before we even begin to chew. The next step? Chew mindfully; challenge yourself to chew each bite around 10 times; you probably swallow at around 2-3! Pay attention to the way the flavor and texture of your food changes. By savoring each bite, you will enjoy less of a food — and still feel satisfied. I find I am more satisfied when I actually engage in a meal. There is no need for deprivation when you follow this technique.
Try This: Be it ice cream, spinach or my favorite, potato chips, start by giving yourself the OKAY to enjoy the eating experience and really taste each bite. Savor them actually. The result is satisfaction and food gratitude. Guilt and shame don’t live here. Joy does! Yum!
Engage Your Senses.
While taste is the most common sense we associate with eating, our sight, smell, hearing and sense of touch can transform our perception of food in a positive way. Mindfully engage your senses the next time you shop for, cook or eat a meal, and the result will be an extraordinary experience. From vibrantly colorful produce stacked at the market to a beautifully plated meal, to the emotions evoked by a memorable aroma, our senses act as a gateway to appreciating food.
Try this: Pick up an apple, and pause to feel its weight. Explore the texture of a carrot and its leaves. Immerse yourself in the tactile sensations you experience in the kitchen, from holding a knife to peeling garlic, chopping an onion or juicing a lemon. Listen to the sizzle of the food as it hits your sauté pan. While you cook and during a meal, take the time to enjoy the way your food smells and the emotions and excitement this may evoke.