Mindful Eating

Read time: 3 minutes

Making love to our food!

One of my friends often laughs at me when he sees me eat. He says that when I eat I look like I'm making love to my food! He says I treat my food like I would make love to a beautiful woman! What got me to this point? Mindful eating - an immediate change that anyone can make for free that will improve our health.

To begin let's define mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying deliberate attention to just one thing. With 100% focus we become aware of what we are experiencing. If we are washing the dishes, we feel the heat of the water and texture of the dish cloth. Mindfulness can transform mundane tasks into a working meditation. Think Mr Miyagi's 'wax on, wax off' approach to car washing! With mindfulness we can turn mind numbing tasks into a retreat from the stresses of modern living.

Mindfulness challenge

If you can, go switch the kettle on and make a cup of tea. Whilst it's brewing switch on the EMP gun - silence your phones, switch off the TV/ radio, lock the kids in the shed and get to a quiet place. Then with care do the following:

  • Once your cup of tea is ready to drink,  sit down.
  • Hold your cup in two hands and feel the warmth. 
  • Breathe in fully and blow out onto your tea. Feel the steam rising up onto your face. 
  • At the end of your out breath relax and pause for a second, then take your first sip.
  • Notice the warm tea going down your throat and how this makes you feel.
  • Then repeat.

This is pretty cool tea drinking. Very Zen, very satisfying! 

What is Mindful Eating? 

Mindful eating is paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking. We focus our attention on the colours, textures and flavours of our food. We feel the sensations in our body as we eat and we notice when we've had enough.

It can take around 20 minutes for the stomach to communicate with the brain that we've had our fill. So when I scoff my food down in less than 10 minutes and I'm then offered seconds, I'm likely to carry on or go for a big dessert. A simple way to lose weight is to only ever eat to 80% fullness. It's sounds simple, but it's far from it! Mindful eating is a tool to make this easier.

Mindful eating requires you to focus the mind, not an easy task when there's a monkey in charge! So every time our mind wanders off, just regain focus back to eating mindfully. If we had a fight earlier in the day it will bounce up again and again. But with patience we can send it packing by bring our attention back to our food. We all get better at this with practice.

Once we have experience mindful eating, we can encourage others in your family to try it. First, a little word of warning. When I first tried this in a mindfulness retreat in New Zealand, I felt very uncomfortable. Sitting at a table in silence is just not normal. My mind had associated silence at the dinner table with a big fights and family disputes. Not a good vibe for eating, thankfully it didn't last long! I can now enjoy mindful eating at the drop of a hat!

Again it is not necessary to eat this way all the time, let's face it, sometimes we are in a rush. But if we can begin with one meal a day then develop this practice we will notice the results. Chewing your food thoroughly and eating mindfully has some incredible benefits:

  • Supports healthy digestion and assimilation
  • Helps us appreciate subtle flavours in our food
  • Helps us move towards healthier foods and away from processed foods
  • Takes us out of our mind and into our body - reducing the stress hormone cortisol 
  • Helps us to think about the journey the food has made to get to our plate

Mindful eating gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect. Many religious families still say grace before a meal. We might not want to thank God any more, but we could thank nature, the animals, the farmers and the cook. We can think about the impact our habits have on the planet. And take a moment to reflect on the people in the world who do not have enough to eat. Then smile and be happy because you were not born into one of these families.

Be well

James


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