One of my favorite things to do is have a Heather Date Night. That means making a fun meal, then picking out a fun movie to watch while eating dinner. It’s an extra special date night when I have a glass of wine with it. And, as is the case with most of my favorite things (like ice cream and cookies), this is not healthy. When it comes to living mindfully, sitting in front of the TV while eating is far from it. Such behavior is referred to as “mindless eating.”
Mindless eating is:
1 – Eating past full – ignoring the body’s signs of fullness
2 – Eating dictated by emotions – depression, stress, sadness
3 – Eating “comfort foods”
4 – Eating while doing something else – working, watching TV, etc.
5 – Eating at random times and places
Yep. How many of those are you guilty of? Me too. The way to avoid these bad habits is to be present and mindful when eating.
Wait, what? We’re supposed to be mindful even when eating?
I’m afraid so. So, let’s look at this thing called “Mindful Eating.”
What is Mindful Eating?
According to Lexicon of Food, the act of mindful eating is to be “fully present and savor every bite – engaging all our senses to truly appreciate the food. Beyond just taste, we notice the appearance, sounds, smells, and textures of our food, as well as our mind’s response to these observations.” These observations include any thoughts or emotions that arise while eating.
Why do we want to practice Mindful Eating?
According to Dr. Melanie Greenberg, eating mindfully “re-wires the brain…(and) restores intuitive wisdom around eating” to make the experience enjoyable yet, “yields better control of fear…reduces stress and depression around eating and helps individuals maintain a more positive relationship with food as well as a healthier body weight.”
How do we practice Mindful Eating?
1 Remove any distractions i.e. TV, tablets and phones. – There is no way you can focus on all your senses if you are watching an episode of Game of Thrones.
2 Eat with purpose. – Ask yourself “why” you are eating. What is the reason for the food? Often times it is not hunger. It might be stress, boredom, to relieve sleepiness, or as a reward. And if the answer anything other than hunger, is there another solution? Maybe take a 15 minute power nap or meditation? Go for a walk? Call a friend instead?
3 Use all your senses to observe your food. – What does it look like? What does it feel like in your mouth? What does it smell like? Is the smell different from the taste? Can you identify the different ingredients in the food? Chew slowly and be in the moment.
4 Slow down. – Make sure you chew your food thoroughly. Maybe set down your fork/spoon in between bites. This will also help you identify your body’s signs that it is full.
5 Don’t eat and run. – Try not to eat in a hurry. For example, don’t stand at the counter. Treat your meals as a ceremony, a sacred ritual. Well, maybe not that serious. The point is, during ceremony and ritual you are present in the moment, aware of the importance of what is going on. Make a ritual of putting food on your plate, sitting down and relaxing.
6 – Give yourself permission to have feelings while eating. – Be aware of your emotions instead of stuffing them down or numbing out. Don’t hide from your feelings. Notice and accept the emotions. They have a story to tell. Let them tell their story, which is your story. Soon you will realize they don’t control you. Over time, the emotions will become lighter and eventually gone as you heal any unhealthy programming around food.
7 – Find gratitude for your food. – Think about where your food came from and the people who helped bring it to your table. The journey the food has made, and the animals that it came from. Find gratitude for the bounty you have in front of you.
But wait, there’s more! The practice of mindful eating goes far beyond the act of eating your meal. According to Lexicon of Food, “Mindful Eating is the practice of cultivating an open-minded awareness of how the food we choose to eat affects one’s body, feelings, mind, and all that is around us. The practice enhances our understanding of what to eat, how to eat, how much to eat, and why we eat what we eat.”
For example, mindful eating means learning to understand the body’s signals of when it’s hungry. Everyone has different signals, but common ones are a growling stomach, low energy or feeling light-headed, and the ever popular becoming angry because you are hungry, aka “hangry.” Once we learn to listen to the body for indications of when and what to eat, we can mindfully stop random eating.
Random eating is walking into the kitchen and randomly looking through the fridge and cabinets for something to eat or snack on. This type of eating is usually from stress, boredom, depression. It is a mindless type of eating instead of a mindful listening to the body eating. Another random eating syndrome is unhealthy eating routines you have created. For example, needing a snack or sugary latte when you drive somewhere. Or needing something to munch on when you sit down to work on your computer. And there’s my favorite, needing something to munch on when watching a movie.
Mindful eating includes a mindful kitchen, too, starting all the way at the grocery store. It means having a purpose for the food you purchase. It means having a place for your food in the kitchen. When you leave food sitting out on a counter, such as bags of chips or cookies, you are more likely to randomly snack on it. Have you ever noticed the food in your cabinets usually have a purpose involving a meal? Finally, mindful eating means having a meal plan and an eating routine. When you plan out your meals for the week, you have more purpose at the grocery, and more of a routine to follow during the week and are less likely to be mindless.
Sounds boring, doesn’t it? BUT, having an eating routine/schedule is beneficial to your mind and body’s health. Plus, an eating routine helps your mood and sleep schedule. And we all crave a good night’s sleep, right? In conclusion, mindful eating is just another way of saying “purposeful eating.” Have purpose in every aspect of your eating. From the grocery store to the scheduled dinner time to the food experience itself, choosing a purpose for each step will create a healthier you in all aspects of your life. Did you like this post? Spread the Yoga Nerd love and share the post with your friends!
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