Mindful Eating is the process and practice of being aware of the food we eat. The pressures in our culture to look thin, be productive and live fast paced lives has meant that our relationship to food has taken a big hit. Instead of the wholesome fuel it is for our bodies and minds, we give food a moral value of either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We eat without thinking, or maybe even overthinking. Mindful Eating is the practice of bringing back a positive relationship with food and acknowledging the impact it has on our physical bodies and on our minds too. The Centre for Mindful Eating sums it up this way:

Principles of Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally, in the present moment.
  • Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments.
  • Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in the present moment.
  • With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
  • Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.

Mindful Eating is:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. 
  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.   
  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.
  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.

Cultural Food Disconnects 

Being Thin

The media has a bit to answer for here. Whilst we are all from different ethnic backgrounds, we think we should all look the same. Thin. Often times we turn to a diet that will do the trick and fix our situation. The problem is that many people don’t stick to a diet. We diet until we see the right number on the scale, then enjoy eating for a time until the number on our scales tell us we need to suck the fun out of food again.

Busyness

It’s not only the pressure to lose weight that has us disconnecting with food. Our busy lifestyles enable us to multitask and that is something that is esteemed. However it means that often our mealtimes are spent doing other things at the same time. Checking emails, looking through Facebook, watching TV, on the phone, driving, walking, the list really does go on. It almost seems weird to eat without being occupied. When was the last time you did that? Excluding people of course!

Urban Living

Where does food come from? The more people living in the city means that we aren’t fully aware of where food comes from. Food comes pre-packaged or pre-prepared. Unfortunately this means that we don’t have a respect for food that we once did. The amount of time and nurture it takes to grow food is so far removed from our every day lives.

Ways To Reconnect With Food

Develop positive rituals around food and eating.

Take the time to stop and think about what you are eating before you consume it. What does it look like? Where did it come from? Try to prepare meals whenever you can and appreciate the effort it takes to create a meal. Take the time to find out what flavours, textures and smells you enjoy eating. Breathe in the meal and express gratitude for the meal before you eat it. This will help you to slow down and connect your mind with the physical act of eating.

Give priority to mealtimes. 

Schedule at least 15 minutes in your day to eat so you are not rushed while you eat. Serve your meal on a plate and use cutlery. This will force you to slow down and sit down to eat your meal. Rest your cutlery beside your plate between mouthfuls so you can fully concentrate on the food you are eating, what it tastes like and what it feels like. Take the time to fully savour your meal. This will help your brain to connect with your stomach and actually know when it is full, instead of overeating until you feel unwell.

Understand where food comes from.

Start to gain an appreciation of where food comes from. Visit a farm or go to the markets to get your food. Research how an apple is grown, and what goes into producing 1L of milk. Make your own bread. The more you understand food and also it’s nutrients for your body, the greater your appreciation for food will become.

To me, eating mindfully means slowing down, expressing gratitude for the food we are eating, being satisfied with food, and paying attention to why we eat. If you get into the habit of mindful eating it will help steer you away from unhealthy relationships with food, and I think you will find, as I have, that it heightens the pleasure of the experience. –Andrew Weil, M.D.