How to practice Mindful Eating

In a previous article, The Power of Mindful Eating, I explained what Mindful Eating is and why it’s really rather good, but the question I get asked is how to eat mindfully – what does Mindful Eating actually look like in practice?  There are four key steps to Mindful Eating and when applied to food, they teach us how to be present while we eat. It sounds so simple, yet it seems we have forgotten how to do it, and I believe this lack of awareness is at the root of our increasingly unbalanced relationship with food and eating. Practice the four steps below and a world of discovery, joy and satisfaction with food, eating and drinking unfolds before us – a world that has quite literally been hidden beneath our noses!

ONE : Slow down
We all lead busy lives, there’s no doubt about it. With so much to do every day, the time we have available to eat is compromised and we end up eating on-the-go, unable to give food and eating the attention it deserves. I see this often with my clients who either skip meals because they are “too busy to eat” or grab something quick to quiet their hunger pangs before rushing onto the next activity. There are many disadvantages to eating at speed: we barely taste the food and register only a vague experience of eating. And without satisfaction from the tastes, textures and sensations of food and eating, we’re likely to want more. Make time for your meals, eat the food slowly and your body will thank you for it.

TWO : Drop the distractions
Another side-effect to the busyness of our lives is eating with distractions. It seems we don’t have time to ‘simply eat’, so we make the most of mealtimes by combining eating with another activity. We eat and read, eat and watch TV, eat and check our phone, eat and send messages or emails, eat and drive – the distractions are endless – and it is the ultimate in mindless eating. On the plus side, the distractions are likely to slow down the eating experience but with the mind focused elsewhere, we may finish our meal dissatisfied and search for something more to nourish us.

THREE : Engage the senses
Mindful Eating involves all the senses: the feel of the ingredients as we prepare the food, the colours and shapes on the plate, the aromas, and the tastes and textures in the mouth. How often do you really look at your food before you eat it, or smell the different ingredients in your meal? We may be aware of the taste of what we eat, but how often do we notice the texture of food and relish in crunchy nuts, silky ice cream and chewy bread? Engaging all our senses as we eat and drink – including the thinking mind and the feeling heart – is to rediscover the source of delight in food and eating.

FOUR : Mind in the mouth
Here’s the thing with Mindful Eating: we may eat slowly and close the book/phone/laptop but if the mind is thinking about everything but the food on our plate or in our mouth, we are still not eating mindfully. To be mindful means to have the mind completely full of what is happening in the present moment, so when we eat and drink we need to ask ourselves: is the mind in the mouth or somewhere else? This is the most important aspect of Mindful Eating because the mind has two distinct functions – thinking and awareness. When the mind is thinking (or focused on distractions) it is no longer aware of the eating experience. Put your mind in your mouth to taste, to enjoy and to be satisfied – Mindful Eating really is the very best flavouring!

MINDFUL EATING PRACTICE

Slow down – Try putting your cutlery or sandwich down in between bites and chew your food thoroughly.
Drop the distractions – Yes, you guessed it! Put the book down, put your phone away, switch off the TV and step away from your computer. Focus on the food in front of you.
Engage the senses – When you sit down to eat, take a moment to really look at the food and smell the aromas. As you eat, notice the tastes and textures. Ask yourself how the food makes you feel.
Mind in the mouth – If you slow down and drop the distractions, it will be much easier to put your mind in your mouth. If the mind wanders, (as it surely will) gently bring your focus back to the tastes, textures and sensations of eating and drinking. You may have to stop thinking and become aware many times as you return your mind to your mouth, but each time you do, you will be rewarded with renewed flavour and pleasure.

Please leave a comment below to let me know about your Mindful Eating experience. I’d love to hear what you learned from the practice.

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