Mindful Eating (aka Eat Less, Enjoy More)
If you’ve ever wondered how you might be able to eat less and actually feel more satisfied, this exercise is for you. How is that even possible? Try this. Even just once. And let me know how you feel.
Mindfulness, in my own words, is being fully present without allowing distractions to take us away from the moment. It’s paying attention to feelings and sensations and noticing thoughts without judgement. If you’ve been to a yoga class that focuses on more than simply asana (poses), you’ve probably learned a bit about this through yoga. So how does eating relate to yoga? When we are mindful, we embrace yoga’s message off the mat. Off the mat, into the world is where our yoga practice can truly become life-changing.
Sometimes throughout the day I will catch myself “mindlessly” eating. You know what I mean. Eating in front of the tv…or at my desk…or on the go; running out the door…or grabbing the entire container of (fill in the blank) and eating out of it. Drinking my coffee as I drive. Not really paying attention to the taste or even really enjoying it. Finishing ALL the food and not realizing what just happened. It doesn’t feel good.
Mindful eating involves noticing what you’re eating (there’s a novel concept!). It’s about tasting what you are eating. Feeling gratitude for where the food came from and the abundance of food you are blessed with. Eating slowly to savor and enjoy with all of your senses.
HOW TO DO IT
When you are ready to try it, sit down at an actual table. Give thanks for your food and the nourishment it provides or perhaps say grace. Feel free to put the food on a fancy plate or to arrange it so that it looks pleasing. Give thanks and think about how this food got to your plate. Where was it grown? Where did it come from and how did it get to where you are now? Did you cook it or did someone else cook it for you?
Cut the food into small pieces (or take small bites if it is a finger food) and as you bring it towards your mouth, take a moment to inhale deeply and notice the aroma. I noticed from trying this that many healthy foods (like fresh fruits and vegetables) smell amazing. Take a bite of the food. Is it sweet? Spicy? What flavors do you notice? Do you notice that hint of garlic or touch of cinnamon or something small that is a part of it? What about the texture of the food? HERE IS THE KEY AT THIS POINT: put your fork down! Take the time to eat slowly and notice the taste of what you are eating. After you swallow the bite and BEFORE YOU PICK UP YOUR FORK AGAIN, take a deep breath (or two) and exhale completely. Repeat. This is how you will eat the whole meal.
When you are finished, take notice. Are you still hungry? Are you over-stuffed to the point where you don’t feel well? How much did you actually eat? A good way to judge if you are eating more or less than usual would be to observe at another meal how you typically eat and how much. Notice also how you feel after your meal. Then try this exercise at another meal and check to see how much you eat now. You may be surprised. I’ve found I can about cut my food portions in half (or 3/4) and feel much more satiated that I would when I don’t practice mindful eating.
I find it’s easiest to try this for the first time when eating alone (or maybe with a partner or someone who won’t question, why are you eating so slowly?). Putting down your fork and not actually picking it up again until you have fully chewed and swallowed the last bite and taken a calming breath seem to be key for me too. Even if you are simply enjoying a tiny piece of chocolate (or your sweet of choice), I bet you will enjoy it that much more and maybe not even reach for a second one.
There is a great book that helped to change my relationship with food and opened my eyes to a lot about mindfulness. It’s called Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth*. If you’re looking to learn more or really put this into practice, I recommend checking it out!
Let me know how it goes. I love hearing your stories when you put some of these ideas into practice! If you liked this post, please sign up for our mailing list so you can have great information like this delivered right to you every few weeks or so.
*PS--you can get a copy of the book Women, Food and God by clicking HERE. It is an Amazon affiliate link, which means it will be the same price to you but if you choose to buy it through this link, I will receive a small commission (and I thank you!).
**PPS--the picture above is actually from the first Thanksgiving my husband and I ever hosted :)