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What is Mindful Eating?

Eating is necessary for survival, that is fact.  However, how we feed our bodies is a topic of debate.  Diet culture has formed our brains to believe so many things that I think personally, hold us back from seeing and believing our highest potential.  When we can remove ourselves from everything diet culture has told us for decades, we can approach the kitchen with fresh eyes and eat mindfully and give our bodies the respect it deserves.  But what is mindful eating?

Mindful Eating Definition

Mindful eating is taking the time to bring awareness to your meals in the present moment and eating with intention and purpose.   What physical sensations are you literally feeling as you eat your meal? It’s easy to fall into patterns of eating what is easy and what sounds good rather than making the deeper connection to what you are eating and considering the effects on our bodies.  It’s important to observe how the food you are feeding your body truly makes you feel.  Free yourself of judgements for eating foods that don’t make you feel great.  Take mental notes of what and how you feel.  Acknowledge these feelings and apply them to future decisions at the table, in the kitchen and while shopping.

Black bowl filled with colorful fruit that contains the caption mindful eating.

The G Word

GUILT.  Release guilt from your vocabulary and exchange it for GRACE.  Give yourself Grace, friends.  Mindful eating takes practice and is never perfect.  Over time, this new skill will become second nature.  You will be able to tune into what your body is telling you and your subconscious mind will be driving the decisions that create positive change and make you feel good.

6 Tips to Practice Mindful Eating

1. Distraction

Get rid of outside distractions.  No TV, phones, books or whatever else you do while you eat.  This allows you to pay attention to the following tips I am going to share next.

2. Body signals

The human body is designed to signal to you when it needs fuel and energy.  It also signals when it’s had enough.

a. Eat hungry, not hangry

Eat when you are hungry.  If you can help it, avoid becoming over hungry, aka, hangry.  Not feeding your body when it tells you will lead you to over eat.

b. Slow down & Stop when Full

Take your time eating.  Give yourself to the moment, bringing awareness to what you are eating and the sensations you feel from your meal.  Pay attention to how it’s making you feel.  Just like your body signals when you’re hungry, it tells you when to stop.  It’s important to eat slow to allow your body to appropriately send it’s signal out.  Eating at snail speed may not always be feasible, but it’s important to take your time and be mindful of it when the time is present.

c. Think SMALL –

Small bites and small portions are important when it comes to connecting with your body signals.  I don’t know where Americans came up with their ginormous portions sizes, but they are way too big.  Smaller portions not only are more likely the right fit for your stomach, but they eliminate waste and over-eating.  Mindful eating means taking small bites with your small portions.  Taking time with your meal allows you to be present and aware, giving you the opportunity to truly savor the flavors and enjoy the experience of the foods you love.    

Combining small bites with the small portions AND eating slowly is essential in mindful eating.  The connection of these three elements gives you a deeper association of the meal which brings a sense of joy and contentment when the small portion is complete.  The geyser of joy and satisfaction knowing you savored every bite brings a sense of fulfilment in that you listened to your body without over-doing it.  More importantly, that you were equally, if not more satisfied with the small portion than you would have been with a larger one.

3. Ingredients

Are there health benefits in the food you are eating? Be mindful of what your food is made of and where it is sourced from. The more care and appreciation you put forth in this step, the bigger the connection you will have with the foods that make you feel good. When you consistently learn to appreciate and pay attention to how this makes you feel, your sub-conscious starts coming into play. In time it will be easier to grab that head of broccoli over the box of cookies.

4. Gratitude for your Food

Appreciate your food.  Even if it is not a meal that you are head over heels in love with.  Connect to the purpose it serves and the nourishment it is meant for.  Give a thought of gratitude for the effort it took to present the meal in front of you and be thankful you have the option to choose what you eat. 

5. Shopping list

Making mindful food choices at home starts with the shopping list.  Try to be mindful when placing items in your cart that they serve your body well and provide nourishment that it needs.  Remember that mindful eating is perfect. I believe it is healthy for your mind to indulge in foods that may not nourish your body, but in moderation.  Pick up a sweet treat that you’ve been craving, but don’t load the cart.

6. YOUR 5 senses

Humans were given 5 senses.  If you have them, USE THEM!  This comes full circle with finding joy in your food by savoring small bites and small portions.  Use your senses to fully indulge, bringing awareness to the present moment and your meal.

  1. What do I hear
  2. What do I see?
  3. What do I feel?
  4. What do I smell?
  5. What do I taste?

CONCLUSION

These exercises will take time to make a regular practice.  If your mind drifts mid-meal, just acknowledge it and bring it back to the moment.  Maybe you forget to bring mindfulness to your meal until you’re already half way done!  That’s okay – just do it whenever you think of it, even if you’re half way done. Don’t judge yourself or consider it a failed attempt, because it’s totally normal to do those things.  Even the most experienced people that practice mindfulness drift away from the initial place their awareness was intended for.

The habit of reaching for the potato chips is one that is so easy to resort to because it’s easy and tasty.  But imagine that over time, you allow yourself to tune into your mind and your body.  You become aware of the taste of the foods you eat and nourishment and purpose they bring (or not).  You notice how they truly make you feel before, during and after eating them.  Eventually, it will become easier to reach for healthier options.  Not always, but mostly.

YOU CAN DO THIS!!  Let me know how it goes! Leave comment or come find me on Instagram @ahumbledelight.

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