How to Be Mindful When Eating

Published on: February 21, 2011

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“Mindful eating emphasizes a spirit of exploration, experimenting and flexibility in finding ways to make use of nutritional information.” – Jean L. Kristeller, Ph.D.

Why Mindful Eating?

As part of my spiritual journey, I have been conscious of being mindful during meals. What do I mean by mindful? We often take for granted the food we put into our body. We assume it is readily available. We may be absent from the meal emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Our minds are somewhere else. We’re either in the past or the future; never present.

My focus is being present whilst I consume a meal. In doing so I release my troubles, worries, anxieties and stresses as I sit down to eat. I fully engage in the moment; being conscious and mindful of the food before me. One of the better aspects of this kind of practice is noticing how little I’ve eaten. I still manage to leave the table feeling full and satisfied. I’ve managed to lose a couple of kilograms over the last months as a result.

Whilst I wasn’t motivated by losing weight (I am my ideal body weight at present), I noticed being mindful allowed me to consume less calories while still being full. I constantly advocate to clients about portion control. Eastern principle states one’s food intake is equivalent to the size and volume of two hands cupped together (please see picture below). The size of your hands determines your meal consumption at each sitting.

In a slight comparison, Starbucks recently announced a new size for coffee calling it the Trenta (which translates to thirty in Italian). The size of the cup is 31 ounces or 0.91 litres. That’s almost 1 litre of coffee. I could write a book on the physiological impact this has on your body. You’re better off in an ER unit receiving electric shock to all your vital organs. That’s the affect 1 litre of caffeine has on your body. I make no apologies for being terse in my summation. That quantity is not healthy for human consumption.

Being mindful during meals implies drawing focus and attention to the food before you. It means carefully choosing foods which nourish your body. Food should bring you closer to health and vitality; not detract from it. Being mindful allows you to release distractions, toxic emotions and negative thoughts during meals. Your mind has the potential to alter the biochemistry of your cells via the foods you choose.

When you combine toxic thoughts and emotions with toxic foods; the result is damaging to the health of your cells. Clearing your mind by becoming centred and present, allows you to connect with your food; thus nourishing your body and mind. You eat less, feeling fuller and satisfied. You engage all your senses to create a wonderful sensory experience.

Becoming a Mindful Eater

Here are some suggestions to make mindful eating a part of your day:

  • Leave your worries, anxieties and stresses behind when you sit to eat. There’s no point in solving them during a meal.
  • Refrain from eating at your computer desk or watching violent images on TV. Such stimuli fuel the mind into a fight or flight response, otherwise known as stress.
  • When consuming a meal, resist the temptation to overeat. When you feel a surge of emotions by drawing on the past or present, you’re likely to overeat.
  • Become aware of unconscious eating as well. This happens when there’s a distraction in the room like bright lights, loud music or TV in the background. Your mind is in autopilot mode; rarely noticing the goodness before you.
  • If you’re feeling emotional due to stress, refrain from eating as a means to draw comfort. This practice is fraught with danger. Take time out by engaging in physical activity i.e. running, walking, cycling outdoors are all preferred options
  • Avoid packaged or canned foods wherever possible. There is little life and sustenance derived from packaged items. Consuming such foods deprives you of a mind-body connection.
  • If possible, prepare your own food. Research suggests that people who grow and cook their food remain healthy and slim. Preparing foods engages your mind and body; allowing a thoughtful process toward health.
  • Laughter is the best medicine. Years ago I stayed with an Italian family in Tuscany. I recall the father, a dermatologist suggesting laughter as a means for effective digestion. Laughter relaxes the bowels which contains 80% of your body’s serotonin, used to regulate intestinal movements. Since serotonin is the chemical which maintains happy feelings, it makes sense to have more of the chemical at work during meals.
  • Offer grace before a meal – even as a thought. Be grateful for the food nourishing your body. Thank yourself for preparing and cooking the meal.

Take small steps each day toward a healthier, more fulfilling life. Awaken Your Authentic Self by connecting to every aspect of your nature. The foods you choose have the potential to enrich the quality of your life. Begin now by changing one aspect of your nutrition and watch your health soar like a balloon.

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