After exploring the many reasons why we eat the foods we do, I’ve realized that most people are pretty robotic when it comes to their food choices. We tend to buy the same foods at the grocery store every week, or order one of the same dishes every time we eat out. Eating has become so habitual for most that we don’t truly reflect about the food we are fuelling ourselves with. We reach for whatever is closest and stuff our face without hesitation, when we really should be considering why we are reaching for that particular food. Is it because it is the cheapest? Is it the most convenient? Is it our favourite food? Is it the healthiest option? Is it because it’s what everyone else is eating right now? Are we just plain starving?
This inquisitive process is called ‘mindful eating.’
Before you begin eating, take a few minutes to think about things like why you are eating that particular food/meal. Where did the food come from? How was it grown? How was it prepared? How does it look and smell on your plate? How does eating that specific food make you feel, both before and after eating? Does eating that food make you happy? Are you satisfied after eating that food?
Mindful eating can really enhance your eating experience and there are several benefits from practicing this behaviour:
- You learn to eat only when you are actually hungry
- This point can also be called “intuitive eating.” For example, rather than eating lunch at noon just because that’s “lunch time,” eat lunch when you actually feel hungry. It might be 11am or 2pm, but rather than forcing yourself to eat just because society says its lunch time, you’re listening to your body and waiting for the cue that your body is ready for more fuel. Otherwise, we fall into the cycle of habitual eating and also risk over-eating.
- You learn to separate food from your emotions
- Are you reaching for those chips and dip because you’re upset? What about bored? Or are you actually hungry?
- You learn to truly enjoy and savour the food you eat
- What is it you like about the food you’re eating? Is it crunchy or soft? Is it sweet or savoury?
- You learn how your body reacts to different foods
- Do you feel bloated immediately after eating? What about gassy? These symptoms may be a sign that you’re eating too fast and need to savour your meals a little more, or might be an indicator that something doesn’t agree with you.
- You learn to really taste food and appreciate the taste of good, whole, nutritious food
- Eating should be a peaceful, reflective and social experience where we refuel and refresh ourselves for the rest of the day!
How do you practice mindful eating?