Mindful Eating

By Liz Miller, Acupuncturist + Herbalist

 

Now that the holidays have come and gone, the decorations are down and the parties have

slowed, it’s time to redirect your intention to the present and what matters most, your wellbeing.

 

One of the best ways to get your mind and body back on track is through mindful eating.

Mindful eating isn’t only about your diet, it is also time out of your day that’s just for you. A time

to calm your mind, find presence and actually enjoy your meal. It’s a common misconception

that people don’t have time to meditate, but meditation and mindfulness can actually be done

anywhere. Think about all the time you spend shopping, preparing and eating food. Now think

about turning these mundane activities into time for connecting with your body, mind, and spirit.

Mindfulness simply means entering a state of consciousness or awareness of what you’re doing,

your feelings, thoughts, or bodily sensations. The key is to not try to change anything, but rather

notice and accept the situation or thoughts for what they are, without judgement. So often we run

our lives on “autopilot”, we can have full conversations and not remember what was said, arrive

at your destination with no recollection of the drive there, or even eat a wonderful meal without

tasting a bite of the food. Mindfulness can be applied to any activity but with this exercise we

will focus on eating.

 

Mindful eating can be as easy or complex as you would like but the basics are simple. Start by

finding a quiet place to enjoy your meal, making sure you’re actually sitting, and not distracted

by watching TV, reading, or doing work. Before you start to eat, take 3 deep breathes and pause.

For some, this is the time for prayer, and for others this is the time to focus on gratitude for the

food you are about to eat. Gratitude not only for the nourishment, but also the earth that supplies

such beautiful foods, as well as, the many people that made it possible for this food to be on your

table. It’s amazing to think about the planting, harvesting, distribution, and transportation that

takes place all over the world in order to bring that food to your plate. Before your first bite fill

yourself up with gratitude for each unique ingredient, and the opportunity to nourish your body.

Here’s the part you can really stretch out if you feel the need- slowly bring the food up to your

mouth and just notice.  Notice your excitement, the smell of your food and saliva in your mouth.

Put the food in your mouth and chew slowly and thoroughly. Pause before taking the next bite.

Taste buds tire quickly so it’s common to take bite after bite to bring the desirable flavor back.

Instead of mindlessly putting food into your mouth for the taste, slow down and really notice and

enjoy what you’re eating. With each bite notice the taste, texture, smell, and different colors, all

the while strengthening you’re moment to moment presence.

 

Use this time and increased consciousness to connect with your body. How is what you’re eating

making you feel? Do you feel energized and satisfied?  Or do you feel heavy, tired and irritated?

Your body is constantly giving you signals to indicate which types of foods are right for you, so

now is the time to tune in and listen. These signals can be positive signs such as increased energy

or better digestion. However, they can also be stomachaches, fatigue, headaches, and even acne.

Tune into how you feel during and after each meal. It’s also important to check in with that “full”

signal your body gives off. Eating until you’re 80% full ensures room for the digestive system to

do its job, but is also a good test of moderation and awareness of what is enough.

 

Mindfulness meditation is just like any other skill, its takes a little time and effort to learn, but

it’s surprisingly easy to start. The best part of this practice, whether it be while eating, talking to

someone, or just breathing, is it’s not about changing who you are. The purpose is to become

aware of who you already are, being comfortable with yourself and noticing what is true in the

moment. When you let go of emotional attachments of who you think you should be or what

could make the situation better, you will not only gain confidence in the face of stress, but also

find greater insight, clarity and understanding of your path in this life.

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