Mindful Eating: Part 2
Mindful eating is a simple concept, but if you haven’t yet read Mindful Eating Part 1, which makes the case for why developing this habit is important, this piece will make more sense if you go back and read it first.
Here are 9 practices that can help to ingrain this habit, to use until this becomes second nature. Eventually, eating in this way becomes no effort at all.
But I have to admit it can feel really strange at first.
1. Start the meal with gratitude.
I like to take 20 seconds to look at the food on my plate and really think about how grateful I am that I have enough to eat, and that I have choice in what I eat.
I try to think about the journey the food has been on, and who might have been involved in that journey, and send gratitude their way, whether it is a farmer or a shop assistant or my mum!
I take a moment to appreciate the colours, smells and textures of the food on the plate, and begin to anticipate the flavours!
Counting is one technique to help slow us down until eating slowly becomes our default speed. Try to chew your food between 20-40 times per mouthful. If you are eating something really soft then you could aim for the lower end, but if you are eating something raw, like a carrot or non-veg, really aim for those 40 chews. It will seem like a lot at first. Just keep chewing!
3. Put your hand down between every mouthful.
Just let your hand rest on the table while you consciously focus on the flavour of the food. Most of us are already finding our next bite before we have even swallowed the food in our mouths, so by default we are not fully experiencing the present moment of eating. Instead, chew, swallow and take a conscious breath before you start preparing your next bite.
4. Drink Water
We should all be drinking more water! This is a great opportunity to up your water intake. Try sipping a glass of water throughout the meal.
5. No distractions
Eating in front of the TV or whilst on social media can lead to mindless eating. Try setting the table nicely and eat consciously even when alone.
6. Get used to leaving a bit of food on the plate.
I think many of us grow up being taught it is rude to leave anything on our plate. We are told we will offend our host, our cook, our mum. When I was growing up we were always taught it was wasteful to leave anything, and that we should eat everything up, even if we were full.
But you are not a human garbage can.
Eating excess food, more than your body needs or wants, doesn’t solve any of the world’s problems. eating slowly and consciously shows any host how much you are enjoying and savouring the food. Once you are pleasantly full, stop eating. If you have any food leftover, pack it for tomorrow's lunch or offer it to someone who might need it.
The habits we learn as children can become deeply ingrained. As adults we have the chance to intentionally change the way we eat, trusting your body’s intuition.
7. Use a hunger scale to tune into your body.
Imagine 1 is being totally ravenous and 10 is feeling totally stuffed. Ideally, we want to eat when we feel around a 3 or a 4, when we feel gentle hunger, but before we feel starving (as this can lead to more frenzied eating, again taking away from the pleasure of the experience).
I think over time we have developed a habit of grazing the moment there is even a vague feeling that we could feasibly eat something, or when we are bored or restless. We actually do our bodies a favour by waiting until we are actually hungry, not that all-consuming hunger, but that sensation of being really ready to eat. Actually, our bodies needs time between meals to digest food and move everything along.
Once hungry, eat really slowly and mindfully, paying attention to how you feel and stop eating when you reach around a 7 - pleasantly satisfying.
8. Be proud of being a slow eater!
Sometimes when we are with others, we feel self-conscious about eating slowly. But most of the time we then all sit at the table after we have finished, chatting (or perhaps eating more food even when we don’t feel like it, because there is food in front of us to graze on).
People don’t mind when one person eats slowly. Own it!
9. Finally, eat mindfully no matter what you are eating.
This is the most important step of all.
It is important to eat slowly and mindfully whether you are eating something you perceive as healthy or something highly palatable like ice-cream.
We all tend to fall into the trap of ‘all or nothing’ thinking. Sometimes when we are eating something we believe to be unhealthy, and we attach feelings of guilt to that, we feel we should just eat as quickly as possible and get it over with. But this takes away all the pleasure from eating something that tastes delicious to us. Letting go of unhelpful guilt and diet rules is a big part of eating mindfully. If you choose to eat a big bowl of ice cream because you love ice cream, truly and enjoy and savour it. Eat slowly and stop when you are full.
Experiencing pleasure when eating,
Now start doing this, from this moment forward.
If you can commit to implementing these steps right now, Eventually it will feel fairly natural, it will become a habit, one we don’t even need to think about. The benefits you will reap will be transformative, and you won’t even feel like you are doing anything specific at all. Doesn’t that sounds great?
Over time, as we eat mindfully and really connect with both our bodies and the origin of our food, we are naturally drawn to foods that our bodies need to be nourished. When we truly savour food, the idea of eating junk food suddenly loses it's appeal. We are more likely to choose foods that are good for us and are ethically produced.
But don’t worry too much about that now. Take one step at a time.
For now, just enjoy the amazing experience of the enhanced flavour sensations that come with eating slowly!
Let me know how you find eating in this new way? Does anything surprise you? Is it having an impact on your food choices? I would love to hear from you!