September 6, 2021
It’s pretty funny that I’m writing about mindful eating. I am almost always the first person to clear a plate at any meal. I’ve never been embarrassed to have such a voracious appetite but, I have often been a little bit ashamed at the pace with which I eat because so much gets lost in the hurry. So, since this is a place of inquiry for me, I can share from firsthand experience the journey toward, as well as the importance of, mindful eating!
We live in a convenience culture that revolves around multi-tasking. Eating has become secondary to everything else we do. We eat while we work. We eat while we drive. We eat while we watch TV. We eat while we scroll through our phones. The only time I have ever witnessed anyone sitting silently, focused solely on eating, is while on meditation retreat.
During meditation retreats which are mostly silent, we sit quietly, focusing on taking one bite at a time while also including awareness of our other senses – awareness of the taste of the food, the scents of the meal, the sounds of eating and other people eating – and this leads us to a deeper awareness of being even just one bite fuller.
Mindless eating often leads to overeating, poor food choices, even poor memory of what you ate leading you to be hungrier sooner and eating significantly more at the next meal.
When we eat too quickly, we disrupt the connection between the gut and the brain which can cause gastrointestinal problems such as gas and bloating. Eating too quickly ultimately means that your brain is not engaged in the process of eating and, as you know, every choice you make about what you consume has a benefit or consequence.
In meditation and yoga everything is connected. What we do on the mat or cushion is not different from the daily activities of our lives. So eating is actually an opportunity to practice full presence and awareness. Think of eating as an act of meditation.
Recently, I made a huge shift in my personal eating habits and committed to eating lunch alone every day. Once my daughter is asleep, rather than ticking another million items off of my to-do list, I make a big, hearty, calorie-packed salad. Then, I sit.
Rather than answering emails, rather than responding to text messages, I enjoy lunch with my full presence. As a result my blood sugar is balanced, my energy level sustains through the end of the day and my mood is steady. I’m a better human being for my family, my business and myself.
Today, try choosing one meal to enjoy mindfully. You might choose a meal that’s easy for you to enjoy alone or invite your household to join you in this activity. Sit in silence – no talking, music, news or other distractions and focus fully on your meal. Bring awareness to the act of bringing the utensil to your mouth, ingesting the food, chewing and swallowing, the scents and sounds both of your food and your environment.
Then, journal about the experience at the end of the meal. What did you notice about the meal you enjoyed mindfully? How was it different? Was your experience of being aware that you were full or hungry different? Did your desire for a certain type of food or environment?
Write about any subtle or obvious differences you noticed. Over the next few weeks continue eating one mindful meal a day and observe how your experience evolves and changes. Chances are, your digestion will improve, you’ll overeat less and your overall sense of wellness will be enhanced.
Below are some recommended practices to cultivate more mindfulness in your life habits.