Arriving Home :: Mindful Eating - Bringing Mindfulness To The Basics
Eating and breathing are two basic actions necessary to survive and stay alive. Both are often overlooked during daily living, in the midst of busy schedules, full email inboxes, a bubbling social calendar and quality time spent alone or with loved ones. Our attention is regularly spent anywhere but on these two essentials to our very existence.
Being a meditation teacher, practitioner and person who enjoys living a healthy lifestyle, of course I am biased when it comes to the opinion that mindfulness is the exact intervention capable of bringing our consciousness and attention to these two basic acts normally so automated and mechanical. However, within this bias is a strong and obvious truth based not only on personal experience and all of my years of practice, but on scientific research, and the self-report of so many meditators that mindfulness meditation really does train you to be present for the most basic parts of your life - especially eating and breathing!
While being mindful of the breath is a very popular practice in meditation, being mindful of eating is quickly becoming a new companion in the mindfulness spotlight. Our relationship with food is often oversimplified with the belief that eating should be easy, straightforward and not overly time-consuming. But the reality is the opposite. Many of us have long-standing, dynamic, complex and jumbled relationships with food. Bringing mindfulness to this relationship exactly as it is can provide a lot of support around a seemingly out of control experience and become the doorway to change.
In mindful eating, we bring our non-judgmental attention to the process of eating and to our relationship with food. From picking up the fork and taking a first bite of a favorite food, to being aware of how full we become as we eat is just the beginning of mindful eating. We also observe our reasons for eating, like true physical hunger in the body or a reaction to stress at work. We practice making wiser choices around the types of food we eat, when we eat and how much we eat.
Mindful eating can help us discern our motivations for eating and, based on this knowledge, free ourselves to make healthier and more supportive choices around food and how we eat.
Practices For Mindful Eating
Here are some simple and accessible mindful eating practices that you can do to immediately bring your attention to the present moment and to the food you are about to eat:
Pause and take a breath. This may seem very simple and basic - it is! This fundamental mindfulness practice of pausing and taking a breath with your full attention can help bring awareness to what you are about to eat and why you are eating.
3-Part Mindful Eating: Practicing mindfulness as we eat is a wonderful way to bring awareness into our lives and to the food we are eating. The 3-Part Mindful Eating practice is:
1. Bring your mindful attention to the utensil you are using as you lift the fork to your mouth
2. Bring your mindful attention to the bite of food you just took. Notice all of the textures, aromas, and flavors of the food.
3. Bring your mindful attention to the fork as you lower it to your plate and let it rest on the plate for a moment, while you take a breath in and out.
Ask yourself, “what would my wise mind do?” In mindful eating, we cultivate our inner wisdom to help support us making healthier choices when eating. This question is great to ask before you are about to eat, and just by asking it, you bring mindfulness to why are you eating. Then you can make a wise choice for yourself based on your inner wisdom. A common example is if you are stressed, but not actually physical hungry, you may be reaching for your favorite snack for comfort. By asking yourself “what would my wise mind do?” you can then see if it is the right decision to eat or not!
As you embark on your own journey of bringing mindfulness to your eating, know that just by practicing bringing your attention to the present moment as you eat via the practices above, you are on the first step towards a change.