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Mindful eating exercises: Mindfulness is on the menu!

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"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Luciano Pavarotti

 

I think the best part about holidays, long weekends, and vacation is the food!


So, I thought I'd keep things light this Friday-of-a-long-weekend and give you some tips about eating mindfully.

If your initial thought is "That does not sound like fun", you're not alone. In fact, if I'm being honest, mindful eating is probably the aspect of mindfulness I took the longest to come around to… but it's one I've learned to appreciate now that I understand how to do it in a practical way that works for me.

Long story short, mindful eating is NOT a buzz kill. In fact, eating mindfully significantly increases your enjoyment of your food. (It can also aid with digestion and help you avoid the discomfort that comes from overeating.)

Colourful platter of fruits and vegetables

Being mindful is synonymous with being present. Being present means we're here with whatever it is that is going on, allowing ourselves to notice as much of it as possible. That is mindfulness: Being here now. So, when it comes to eating, mindfully doing so involves appreciating every aspect of the meal: from everything about the food itself to who you are enjoying it with and what your surroundings are like. Here are some mindful eating exercises that are basically ways in which you can sprinkle a little mindfulness into your meals.


Sitting down to your meal: An opportunity to centre yourself When you sit down to your meal, take a beat to centre yourself before even engaging with your food. When you're grounded (i.e. present) you're more likely to enjoy the experience of eating. You can do this easily in one of two ways: Focus on taking one, two, or three deep breaths in and out, noticing the breath moving in your body, keeping your mind firmly planted on the breath. Scan your body and notice what you are detecting with your senses. the feeling of the seat under you, the feeling of your clothing, the sound of a fan or music, the shadows outside your window, etc. This isn't meant to be a long process. You can do either of the above practices in a couple of minutes or less. Before tucking in: An opportunity to appreciate Before you dig in, take a moment to appreciate the dish of food before you. Notice colours, textures, shapes, aromas, even sounds of the food. Consider briefly where the food came from. Think of farms, seas, farmers, food processors, grocery stores, markets, etc. Can you send them gratitude, recognizing that, without them, you might not be eating this meal? Neither noticing the characteristics of your food nor where it comes from needs to be a big deal. Take a minute or even 30 seconds to do this. In other words, you don't have to stare at your food for 15 minutes while it gets cold! Taking a bite: An opportunity to be with your food When you take a bite, notice what that bite feels like: the texture, the flavours, even the sounds if that is your thing. (The sounds of eating are NOT my thing...) Look, I'm not suggesting you chew your food 7,623 times before swallowing. You'd never leave the dinner table, if that were the case. For some, being stuck at the dinner table might be a dream come true but I'm guessing most of us have other things we want to do (even if it's just planning the next meal). Digesting: An opportunity to connect with your body As you eat and consume more of your meal, see if you can tune in to how the food is making you feel. Can you feel it moving from your mouth to your stomach? Can you feel yourself getting fuller? Can you envision the food you are consuming replenishing your energy stores so you can go about your day? Maybe send the food a thought of gratitude because, without it, you'd be lethargic and unable to do all the wonderful things you plan on doing. Other things to keep in mind Before I leave you, I want to share three additional points. Eating painfully slowly is not required. I think the idea of eating mindfully used to turn me off a bit because I thought it had to be so slowwwwwwww. While it does involve slowing down a bit to notice, it doesn't have to be painfully slow. The steps above do not have to be applied to the entire meal. Take some time to mindfully eat your first few bites and then, if you want to engage in conversation or need to get your meal done to get out the door on time for an appointment, that's okay. The more you practice eating mindfully, the more you'll want to do it because it will start to feel like something is missing when you don't. If you forget in the beginning, add in mindfulness as soon as you think of it. Sometimes I'm so hungry when I sit down to eat or so eager to try the delicious-looking food, that I forget to do any of these mindfulness techniques. Guess what? It's okay. When that happens, if I catch myself a few bites in, I add in the mindfulness techniques at that point. No one said you had to do these techniques first thing. So, if you forget, no biggie. Whenever you think of it, take a few moments to notice the characteristics of the food, consider where the food comes from, send gratitude to the food, concentrate on a few bites, and/or connecting with your breath. Take a break from screens to be with your meal and the people around you. I know a lot of people spend their meals staring at a screen of some sort. That's okay. We know we all spend way too much time staring at screens. However, I would love for you to consider putting the screens aside when you eat. When your focus is on scrolling or watching TV, you're not putting any attention on the meal, which means you miss out on an opportunity to derive joy from eating, add mindfulness to this important part of your day, and connect with your body and the people you're enjoying your meal with. Recognizing that we are already overloaded with information in pretty much every other part of our day, eating without a screen gives your mind a much needed break. I know it's a habit for many and that's okay. It takes time to change habits but I firmly believe that this is one that is worth working on. Start by eating without a screen once per week and see if you can increase the number of meals you have without screens from there. Food is not just meant for fuel; it's also meant to be enjoyed and you can't do that if you aren't fully there with your meal. If you eat with others, meal times are also meant to be a time to connect with those people. So, try putting the screens aside and see what happens!



Thank you for reading!


Stephanie



LORA Concepts Inc.

workplace engagement & well-being




p.s. The information, insight, and advice I share through my work is meant to exist alongside whatever else you may be doing to bolster your mental health, manage stress, or improve your well-being. Nothing I share is meant to replace directives or treatment plans provided by your doctor, therapist, or other healthcare professional.

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