I’m preparing to give a presentation on mindful eating to a group of therapists and other mental health clinicians next week. It’s really gotten me thinking deeper about mindful eating as an avenue back to our true selves.
Here’s the deal: We as a culture are incredibly disconnected from our bodies and our appetites. Our appetites for food, and our appetites for other things in life.
Our world is so distracted – our attention is literally what marketers are competing for (and, guess what, they’re good at it).
So when it comes to eating, we often aren’t in tune with the signals from our bodies, and we aren’t really paying attention to the food itself. Think about the last time you ate – what else were you doing at the time? Working, watching TV, driving, using your phone or computer, something else?
What would it be like to just focus on eating next time? To focus on how your body feels and fully experience the food? This is called “mindful eating.”
Common objections to mindful eating:
- “I don’t have time.” – If you don’t have time to take 15-20 minutes to eat, then you need to either reprioritize your day or set some boundaries. Make the time – it’s that important. You are worth it. Your body is worth it.
- “It will be boring.” – When you are used to being distracted 24/7, then yes, focusing on just one thing might feel “boring,” but if you give it a chance you just might find that it’s actually an enjoyable experience. What would it be like to just focus on one thing at a time?
- “I won’t know when to stop eating.” – Listening to your body without diet or food rules can be scary. But your body already contains the wisdom you need to know when to stop. It’s ok if you make a “mistake” by under or overeating. Your body can handle it, and you can try again later.
“How to” eat mindfully:
- Check in with your body – Are you hungry? If not, wait a bit and check back in.
- If you are hungry, how hungry are you? What are you hungry for? Give yourself permission to eat that food.
- Sit down at a table to eat. Try to make the environment pleasant, with out clutter or distractions.
- Take a deep breath.
- Notice the appearance of your food – the colors, the presentation, the textures.
- Smell the food. What aromas do you notice?
- Take a bite and chew slowly. Eat each bite slowly, chewing thoroughly, savoring it.
- Notice the flavors and the textures.
- Notice how the taste changes with each bite.
- Stop when you are satisfied.
- Take a moment to express gratitude for the experience.
Mindful eating is a way back into your body. Rather than following an external set of rules about what to eat and how much to eat, you are tuning in to your internal cues for hunger and satiety.
As you find your way back to your body, you will also get back in touch with your appetite for things outside of food. You might find yourself “hungry” for connection, adventure, relaxation, rest, and all sorts of other things.
It’s amazing what happens when you honor your various appetites, for food and otherwise. Your true self knows what it wants and needs if you listen.