In today’s health and wellness community, much of the conversation has focused on what to eat and why to eat it from a nutritional analysis standpoint. You’ll often hear, “Eat more kale because it’s high in vitamin C & nutrient dense”, or “I eat a Paleo diet because it excludes refined carbohydrates & grains”. The “what” and “why” do have a place in the overall health landscape, but they only represent a fractional piece of the well- being pie. The nutritional community neglects and individuals shun the importance of HOW to eat (this includes the WHEN & WHERE, as well). These three concepts make up the general practice called mindful eating, and should be on an equal playing field with the “what” & “why”. So, lets take a in- depth look at HOW we can eat with a more present, mindful approach.
Mindful eating is based on the foundation of bringing more awareness & attention to the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that arise in the present moment of mealtime (1). When you cultivate a mindful approach to eating, you begin to eradicate the habitual, unconscious patterns that ruled your thinking, feelings, & actions surrounding food. One key aspect of mindful eating is that it is not about judgment or blaming yourself. This CANNOT be ignored. Rather, mindful eating engages you, allowing you to observe internal thoughts or feelings & getting curious about anything that arises.
So, to practice mindful eating free yourself of all distractions, the TV, steering wheel, phone, book, etc. Become aware of maybe why you are eating in the first place. Are you hungry? Bored? Emotionally distressed? Here are a couple tips. Try eating with your non- dominant hand. Or, take your food in your fork (left hand) , then transfer it to your spoon (right hand), and eat. These two methods add more consciousness to your food intake. There is nothing wrong with eating the foods we love, or having a splurge dessert, but lets do it in a conscious way. Wouldn’t it be delightful if we could mindfully enjoy that delectable chocolate cake with a group of friends, over a good conversation, sipping a glass of wine? YES, I agree.
Get Your Parasympathetic ON!
Activating the parasympathetic system, or getting out of stress mode, is vital when we decide to sit down for a meal (2). So, get ritualistic when it comes to mealtime. Find a special place where you can be alone and relax, without being disturbed. Take a few deep breaths before you take your first bite. Smell, stare & observe your plate.
Mimic the Cow Strategy
Have you ever watched a cow take a bite of grass and eat? If so, you’ll notice that they chew, chew some more, and just in case, chew a little more. Get in the habit of chewing 10-20 times, savoring every mouthful. Challenge Yourself!