“Whenever we eat or drink, we can engage all our senses in the eating and drinking experience. Eating and drinking like this, we not only feed our bodies and safeguard our physical health but also nurture our feelings, our mind, and our consciousness.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Imagine this: you are about to eat your favorite dish – pasta in spinach sauce for me – and you take the first bite. Now try doing this – after the first bite, place the fork back down and begin to savor the different flavors in the pasta. Chew slowly, don’t talk and tune in to the flavor of the spinach, for example, the aroma of the different herbs present in your pasta.
Repeat this for the course of the meal and you will experience a deeper connection with your body and the food you eat. This practice is known as ‘Mindful Eating,’ a concept with its roots in Buddhist teachings, helps us become conscious of what you consume and when to consume and not just eating mindlessly to beat stress.
Steven Roberts in his book, ‘Eating Your Meditation – A Guide to Metamorphic Nutrition’ mentioned the profound act of eating mindfully, leads to maximum assimilation, cellular regeneration and environmental synchronicity.
Studies have found that mindful eating can help you to reduce overeating and binge eating, lose weight and reduce your body mass index (BMI), cope with chronic eating problems such as anorexia and bulimia, and reduce anxious thoughts about food and your body and improve the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.!
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is like meditating during a full course meal. Sounds bizarre? Well, it is simple and can be learnt almost immediately and the benefits unfold in no time. Like when you meditate, you sit in a quiet space, focus on your breath and clear your mind of negative thoughts, similarly, eating meditation requires you to do the same.
You become aware of the food you eat, the sensations in your body while chewing and your relationship to the food you eat. Eating is generally associated with sensory pleasures and rapid consumption. But imagine tasting every flavor present in the food consumed, you will feel a sense of calmness and content within you.
So, say for instance, eating while you are angry or tensed, would be like fueling those emotions to aggravate them further. In mindful meditation you empower the thoughts of peace, tranquility, patience and harmony with the self.
How to Eat Mindfully?
Here are few tips to help you eat focused mind:
1) Dedicate time to eat
Usually the act of eating is accompanied by other tasks like watching television, talking to friends, reading a book, etc. But just like meditation, mindful eating would require you to create space for the act of eating; dropping all the other things to just eat is what we are talking about. A silent place or a place where you will not be disturbed, is preferable. If there are external sounds, it is okay, stay calm and focused.
Often we miss the real essence of eating and slip into the semi conscious world of eating, where the act is to fill up the stomach, but this does not solve the purpose. In this step we will stop and witness our food, looking and admiring the pattern of the food that is put in front of us – the smell, the color, the look, the shape included. It is important to acknowledge what you are going to consume.
3) Express Gratitude
The act of saying few words of gratitude before eating your meals has a positive effect, on our bodies and also the food we eat. Thanking all the people responsible for bringing it to your table – from the farmers, bakers to the truck drivers, the sellers, etc. and people who cooked it, take a moment to consider and thank them all.
Now as you start to eat, notice how you feel as you are looking at the food, how does the food smell, what are the reactions of the senses – are you feeling happy, excited, hungry, anxious, unpleasant. Tapping into all of your senses is a great way to be fully present while eating.
Finally, as you take the food in your mouth, allow yourself to be fully present in the experience of eating. Notice the flavors and textures as you chew, enjoy each bite, chewing the food fully – this is also a healthier way of eating.
6) Notice your emotions
Notice your emotions further, are you feeling the urge to eat more and move to desert? Or are you feeling unhappy with what you are eating? It will be simple and easy to notice the way the body accepts the food with pleasure or displeasure. Notice how the breath appears, as it gives some indication of how comfortable or uncomfortable the process of eating is for you. After a couple of bites, if you notice your thoughts drifting away to other things, gently bring it back to the food, smells, flavors and sensations.
Initially, you can start by practicing the same process with some fruits and as you get better, you can switch to mindfully eating your meals.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
Eating meditation is simple to do and does not require much effort on your part. Here are some benefits you will begin to notice with mindful eating, even if you practice it for just 5 to 10 minutes a day.
- Food is definitely going to taste better as you experience many flavors present in every morsel, which you missed otherwise.
- Enhances weight loss, as you start to feel full, earlier than you used to. This is because your body will indicate when it has eaten enough. Ideally, after the first burp during eating, you should stop eating.
- A sense of patience and calmness will spread over you, igniting the feeling of contentment and ease.
- It will be a break from your hectic routine.
- Gradually you will be directed to eat healthier and lighter food.
- Develop a deeper connection with the body as you become more attuned towards your desires and needs.
Slow down, be present and eat mindfully! It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that matters.