It’s the perfect little bundle – full of vitamins, bursting with juice that tastes like sunshine, and can be easily experienced with all 5 senses:
- You can see the striking orange color, the tiny pores on the outside.
- You can feel the peel beneath your fingernails; then the sweet juice running down your hand.
- You can hear the coarse peel separating from the rest.
- You can smell the bright, uplifting scent that bursts from the peel as you lift it back.
- Best of all, you can taste its citrusy, happy goodness.
How often do you experience food in this way, with all 5 senses?
I can tell ya how many times I did this weekend: ZE-RO.
I ate pizza, pancakes, ice cream, fast food and more handfuls of M&Ms than I care to remember (why would my dad buy the biggest bag he could find – and then leave it on the counter?!)
All of this, devoured as mindlessly as humanly possible. I’m not sure if I was even hungry for half of it – but in my mouth it went. Again, and again and again. Damn those M&Ms, seriously – peanut AND plain? Like I could choose between the two.
Realizing the error of my gluttonous ways, as I sat down to my orange today, I tried to be mindful.
I tried… and then I started thinking of this post and daydreaming. Until my orange shot juice all over me and just barely missed my eye.
Oh nature, I love your gentle reminders.
Thanks to my feisty orange, I finished my snack with total presence.
Mindful eating is SUPER important. Why?
- When you’re paying attention to what you eat, you eat the right amount. Not too much, not too little – just the amount that is right for your body at that time. You feel when you’re hungry, eat slowly, feel when you’re full, and then you stop. It’s hard to binge recklessly when you’re mindful of how your stomach feels.
- You really taste your food. I ate some of my favorite junk food this weekend, but how much did I really taste it? Not a whole lot, honestly. I sped through it like it was a million dollar contest. Had I slowed down, been present to what I was eating, I would’ve really experienced all the flavors.
- It brings you joy! Good food makes me happy, but not when I’m not paying any attention to it. Really experiencing and appreciating the food definitely increases the happiness factor.
- It improves your relationship with food. Clearly, my unhealthy food fest over the weekend does not demonstrate a healthy relationship with food. I used and abused it – to kill time, keep my hands busy and satiate cravings. That’s not what food is for. Food is for nourishing you. I’m not saying you should adopt the “eat to live, don’t live to eat” philosophy – to me, that’s crazy talk. If you can do it, good for you! But I just love food too damn much to not enjoy it, to treat it merely as fuel. It IS fuel – joyful, yummy, nourishing fuel. So when you pay attention to it – appreciate it, eat until you’re appropriately full, but don’t obsess over it and binge your little heart out – then you’re establishing a much healthier relationship with it.
- It improves your mindfulness practice. Eating is something we all do every day, several times a day. If you use it as a reminder to be present, there are several built-in checkpoints throughout the day. Perfect!
There are tons of good reasons to be more mindful when eating, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. As you can tell from my bingeing bonanza, slipping into old habits is.
But there were periods of time that I did eat mindfully, and the difference is incredible – so I’m gettin’ back at it. Here’s how:
How can you practice mindful eating?
- Start slowly. Pick one meal a day to be completely present for – once that gets comfy, add in another. You get it. I’m starting with breakfast – should be easy enough, as I eat most mornings with my love. I don’t mind being present for that. Dinner’s gonna be the challenge for me – I typically like to sink into the couch and shovel it in while I watch “Chopped.” So I’ll work up to that.
- Get rid of distractions. Put your phone away, turn off the TV, hide the books and magazines. This is all about you and your food – nobody else is invited to this party.
- Make it special and start a pre-feasting ritual: light a candle, put on soft music, ring a bell, whatever. Some of these sound date-worthy, I know. Do what you’re comfortable with. The point is to let it be a kind of transition; doing this action means you’re about to sit down, tune in and enjoy your food.
- Thank the food. Say a prayer, if that’s your thing. Or simply recognize how lucky you are to have that food and feel grateful. When you stop to appreciate what’s in front of you, it’s pretty impossible to scarf it down mindlessly.
- Pay attention to the 5 senses. How does your food look? Is it visually appealing? How does it feel, both in your hands and on your tongue? How is the taste – sweet; salty; bitter? What’s the smell like? How does it sound as you eat it? Really pay attention and fully experience the meal with all 5 senses.
- Chew enough. Westchester University of Pennsylvania suggests 30 to 50 times per bite. When you chew each bite thoroughly, you’re giving yourself a chance to really taste it (and improve digestion – bonus!) Plus, when you chew more, you eat at a slower pace, giving your body time to release the “I’m full!” signal and prevent you from overeating.
- Pay attention to your stomach. How does it feel to be hungry? Notice how you feel as you eat, as the sensation subsides and fullness takes its place.
- Watch your mind. What’re you thinking about? Is your mind focused on the food or is it wandering off to your to-do list? If you are focused on the food, what are those thoughts like? Are you judging? - “I’m sooo bad for eating this.” -If so, let go of the judgment. You’re not bad for eating a brownie. It might not be the healthiest food ever, but eating it changes nothing about your character. It’s just food.
- Take your time. Chewing enough and paying attention will definitely help with this, but in addition, make a conscious effort to slow down. It’s tough to do when your to-do list is reeling with every mouthful, but do it anyway, just for this one meal. The rest of the day will come, regardless of how quickly you eat your food. Let that go, become present and remind yourself that it’s not a race – it’s an experience.
Mindful eating is really about being present and fully experiencing the meal, as well as your mind and body’s reactions to it.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Easy? No. It’s oh sooo tempting to dive into a bowl of ice cream in front of the television, or flip through a magazine while you eat lunch. I know. It’s habit.
Habits take time to change. Don’t expect it to be easy, or feel good. In fact, it’ll probably be a little uncomfortable at first.
Push through it. Start small. Enjoy the benefits.
Join me at breakfast – or the meal of your choosing – and lemme know how it goes!
Do you eat mindfully? How do you think you’d benefit if you did? I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences in the comments!
Peace, love and a steaming cup of Zen,