We live in a fast-paced society. We are constantly being bombarded by advertisements with images of food to eat, products to buy, as well as emails, phone calls, and text messages. Our attention is being diverted in a million different directions. Mindfulness is all about slowing down, and pausing to listen to ourselves – to what we really want and need.
Mindfulness is cultivating awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Mindful eating means tuning in to our bodies, and paying attention to what we’re eating, and why. In our society, food is easily available, and ubiquitous. Advertisements aim to convince us we’re always hungry, and that consuming food will make us happy. We often end up eating for reasons besides hunger, such as boredom, or stress. How often do we stop to actually listen to ourselves, and what our own needs and desires really are?
To begin eating mindfully, first ask yourself whether or not you’re actually hungry. Pay attention to the physical sensations of hunger and fullness. Perhaps you’ll realize you aren’t hungry after all. Maybe you’re feeling stressed, and just need to go for a walk, or take some deep breaths. However, if you are in fact hungry, practice mindful eating by approaching your food choices with conscious awareness and intention. What food will you both enjoy the taste of, and make you feel good physically? Will this food give you more energy, or make you tired? Ask yourself if it will contribute to your goal of living a healthy lifestyle.
Once you choose something to eat, eating it mindfully will make for a much more enjoyable experience. By actively paying attention, and engaging our senses, we are able to notice and appreciate details that otherwise get overlooked. Notice the color, shape, temperature, and aroma of your food. Hold it in your mouth a moment – is its texture smooth, firm or spongy? When you bite into it, is it juicy or dry? Does it taste tart, sweet, spicy or savory? Rather than hurriedly scarfing down hundreds of calories and barely appreciating them, eating mindfully allows us to eat more slowly, and really savor the experience.
Eating more slowly also enables us to register when we are full sooner, and avoid overeating. Mindful eating allows us to find that comfortable spot, where we are perfectly satiated, yet not overly full. Whereas diets are associated with deprivation, mindfulness is about joy, because the only thing we’re depriving ourselves of is feeling overly full, and regretful afterwards. It enables us to enjoy a meal, and walk away still feeling good about ourselves. As we engage all of our senses and eat mindfully, the phrase, “less is more” rings true.
Mindful eating encourages us to be fully present, tune in to what we need, and make wise, fulfilling choices. Mindful eating empowers us by enabling us to reclaim the control we lose when we give ourselves over to emotional, or compulsive eating. It enables us to make healthier choices, enjoy our food more, and feel better about ourselves. So take a step back, and remember that a healthy lifestyle is something to be practiced each day, and each moment – one bite at a time.