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Eating Mindfully

Posted By: Leena Mahtani

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Mindful eating is a lovely idea but can be difficult to incorporate into everyday life, or so it seems. What is it really, and how can we do it? Let’s start with the basics. Mindful eating is paying attention to every bite of our food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment. It’s an approach to eating that focuses on awareness and the direct experience of the food that we eat. The intention with mindful eating is to help us savor the moment, the food, and encourage our entire presence while we eat. It is such a satisfying experience when done correctly, and in an era where the TV is usually on in the background when eating most meals, it’s worth taking the time to do.

Slowing down while eating is one of the best ways to get our mind and body to communicate what we need for our body’s nutrition. The body sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often unconsciously overeat. But, if we slow down, we can give our body a chance to catch up to our brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount. Simple ways to slow down might just include following many of your grandmother’s manners, like sitting down to eat, chewing each bite 25 times (or more), setting your fork down between bites, and all those old manners that are maybe not as pointless as they seemed. 

How can we capture the essence of a mindful eating practice and integrate it into the reality of our demanding and busy lives? The first step is to turn off distractions — close the computer, put your phone in an inaccessible place, turn off the T.V., even close books, newspapers, and magazines. Your mind can only do one thing at a time. It can either write an email or focus on the joy of eating. Next, put your feet on the ground (I like popping off my shoes) and take three deep, even breaths. Just that one simple action will shift your inner landscape.

Think of sitting with simple bowls of rice and vegetables. You can become thankful and full of gratitude as you consider the farmers who planted and tended to the food. Give thanks to the earth that nourished the roots of the vegetables, for the sun that helped give the food vitality, for the hands that created the bowl you’re eating from, and to the people who transported the food to the grocery store and put it on the shelf. Thinking of these things alone can help shift your mentality around your food just being “fuel” to your body, to it becoming a beautiful practice of gratitude every time you sit down to eat. 

There is a beautiful web of connection that brings food to our plate every day. By mindfully eating the hard work of so many hands, we honor everyone’s diligent efforts. The author Thich Nhat Hanh advises us to “close our eyes and deeply inhale the rich aroma of the food. Place each bite in our mouths, chew, savor, and relish—swallow, breathe, and repeat.”

Sitting down to a meal and taking a moment of gratitude for the food we are about to eat feeds us on many levels—body, heart, and soul. Staying present with what is in our mouths connects us to the delight of food. And paying attention while we are eating allows us to feel the fullness of our stomachs, which helps us easily eat the right amount of food. So, may you enjoy and be deeply nourished by your next meal with the wonderful practice of mindful eating!

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