Mindfulness is a term that is now so ubiquitous that it can often be dismissed as nothing more than the latest buzzword. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. When applied to eating, it - in fact - has the ability to deepen and enrich the experience whilst also offering important feedback. Read on to find out how to incorporate this essential practice into your daily life and the benefits it can provide.
Put simply, mindfulness is the practice of paying close attention - bringing all of one's senses to the present moment - without deeming whatever one senses as good or bad. When consistently presented with the facts in this way, we are much more likely to make better decisions.
We all know that eating with as much focus as we can muster throughout each meal can greatly increase the possibility of noticing just how full - or not - we are. This phenomenon is one that simply requires us to dispense with distractions thus enabling the mind to look out for cues from the body. Often missed due to the fast-paced nature of our busy lives, this information prevents us from overeating not just in the moment, but over the long term. Mindfulness is also instrumental in creating the perfect conditions for optimal digestion.
Below are a few tips to get you started:
Get curious: Whenever the urge to eat something presents itself, try getting into the habit of assessing what your body really needs. Are you truly hungry? Thirsty, perhaps? Are you making the most nourishing choice for your body? Could boredom, tiredness or stress be playing a role here? If so, is food the best antidote? A minute or two spent scanning your body for answers to these questions is usually enough to create space between your triggers and the choices you decide to make.
Prime your body and mind: Once you have concluded that food is indeed required, it is best to eat it seated at a table. Making sure that it is devoid of stress-inducing clutter (or anything that could prove to be a distraction from the task at hand) is vital. Next, take three deep breaths to put you in a better - or at least neutral - frame of mind.
Take a moment: This is all that is needed to look down at your plate (which is, hopefully, inviting) and to appreciate the colours and textures on it. If you feel uninspired by what you see, this is valuable data. It is often said that the first bite is with the eye so create a plate you can get excited about. The anticipation you feel as a result will be accompanied by the stimulation of your salivary glands, causing your mouth to water - an important first step of digestion. Leaning in to the food and breathing in the aromas also assists this process.
Chew thoroughly: Putting your cutlery down while doing so, is a great way to ensure that you do not speed up your meal by placing another bite of food into your mouth before you have swallowed the first. Only swallow once you have completely broken down the food. This will provide a greater surface area on which digestive enzymes in your saliva can work. You may find that you do not need the assistance of sips of water throughout your meal to send the food down.
Check in: Pay attention to how you feel as each mouthful of food reaches your stomach. Could you do with a little more food? Do you feel satisfied and comfortable?
Repeat: The more you follow the steps above, the deeper the habit is embedded into your consciousness - without having to continually rely on (and, eventually, deplete) willpower.
I will dig a little deeper into the science of mindful eating in a subsequent article.