How do you see food?
What are you habits when you eat?
Is it a mindless thing that you do while checking emails, working at your desk, or shovelling in the food so that you can get back to what you are focused on (your to do list, tv, numbing emotions....)?
In the hustle, bustle of life today we can find ourselves considering food preparation and eating, just another thing that needs to be done. I have often heard people say that if food requirements could be satisfied by a pill it would simplify their lives. That is understandable with the confusion around food today. Organic or not, should I go gluten free, and over 30 years of diet programs.
Every day, we lose ourselves in the repetitive patterns of daily life. Unconsciously moving through our tasks on autopilot waiting for the moments when we can relax and take a breath. Perhaps on the weekend or perhaps our yearly vacation time.
You can create those moments on a daily basis by including moments of mindfulness and conscious awareness to everyday activities such as: Mindful walking, drinking your coffee, eating, brushing your teeth and many more.
It is all about putting everything else aside for a moment and become curious and aware of all your senses.
Being present, turning inwards. Noticing the temperature of your coffee, is it bitter or sweet, feeling it spread the warmth as you swallow etc.
Using mindfulness on a daily basis has been shown to calm the nervous system, relieve symptoms such as: anxiety, pain, inflammation, heart disease, asthma, auto-immune disorders ....more.
Mindful eating itself, provides a new way of experiencing food and allows us to make healthier choices as well as allowing our bodies to better digest the food which in turn allow us to absorb more nutrients.
Just take a moment to think about the impact on the digestive system when it is flooded with large amounts of food very quickly because we are getting too quickly. Or how or stress response maybe activated while we are reading emails, making a large to do list, or any number of things we tend to do while eating. Did you know that when our stress response it activated, our digestive system shuts down?
The practice of mindful eating is simple.
1. Sit down to eat - Very important to help you become present.
2. Turn off all electronics, tv, phone... Try to eat at least one meal or snack a day in complete silence
3. Eat a little slower- Give your digestive system a chance to catch up.
4. Be a food critic - Imagine yourself having to write a recommendation after you eat, think about the presentation, flavours... Be a compassionate food critic focused on all the positive things.
5. Put down your utensil between bites - This helps to achieve the 2 tips above.
6. Change hands - It can feel awkward but it helps to become more consciously aware of what you are experiencing. When you first learn a new task, you pay attention to every detail.
Once you are ready to enjoy your meal.
- Breath- Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Take a moment before eating to notice the aroma, colours, and even texture of your food. Savouring the various sensations as you eat. Starting with taking a moment to breath will help your awareness open up so that you become more fully present to the act of eating. Turn in to all of your senses.
- Touch- Notice the lifting of your hand/utensil, the food touching your tongue and the act of chewing the food itself. Be curious about what each flavour is in your mouth and notice how the food feels and smells as you eat it.
- Acknowledge thoughts, feelings, and sensations- What are the thoughts, feelings, or other sensations that arise while you are eating, simply notice them, acknowledge them, and then allow them to pass as if they were floating by on a cloud.
- Self-Compassion- It is normal for our minds to drift away from the experience especially when first starting a mindfulness practice. Just bring your mind back to your chewing, and your senses.
- Appreciation- Experience a since of appreciation by thinking about all of the wonderful people that played a role in you being able to enjoy this wonderful food. Work your way backwards from the present moment, the person who prepared the food, the person who purchased the food (these might be you but still appreciate the time and skills used), the clerk at the grocery store, all the way back to the farmer who planted the seeds. This is a great strategy to help you choice more whole natural foods as doing this with processed food has a different feel to it.
- Healing power- Think about your digestion. Imagine the foods providing the essential nutrients to every part of your body. Imagine these life altering nutrients healing each cell, reducing the inflammation, repairing tissue damage, etc leaving you with healthier thriving cells. The same can be done while preparing the food.
Practising these mindful eating tips will slow down your stress response, putting your body into rest mode providing your body time to heal and recover from the other stresses in your life. Eating more slowly will help you to stop overeating while watching tv or numbing your emotions with food. It will also help you make healthier choices as mentioned above, doing appreciation while eating a "Twinkie" will be challenging to see it's healing your body however if you are eating a nice melody of roasted vegetables noticing each ones nutritional value with create powerful results.
Seeing food as medicine for your well-being and taking the time to appreciate it will change your relationship with food.
Check out how Dr. Teryy Wahls reversed her MS symptoms with food. https://youtu.be/lJT4gRUlpkc