Can you name everything you had for breakfast today? What about yesterday? Or the day before that? While you probably can name everything you ate for your last meal, chances are that you have to really strain your memory to remember what you ate few days back. In most cases this has nothing to do with memory but your lack of attention to the content and process of eating.
Most of our meals are eaten as a sideshow, an accompaniment to something that we deem as more important, like gobbling the sandwich while driving the car or eating supper while watching TV. Barring a few meals with friends or family, we rarely sit down for a proper dinner. After all, who has the time for a leisurely dinner when we have our never-ending checklist of to-dos.
Mindfulness teaches us to focus on the present moment while staying aware of our own thoughts and feelings. When applied to eating, mindfulness advocates that we pay all our attention to the properties of food and the act of eating. We must concentrate only on our enjoyment of the food which is actually quite easy to do. Here are some of our tips on eating your food mindfully:
Sit down for your dinner: This is both simple and effective. The act of sitting down will automatically ensure that you are not eating the food while walking or driving. Lay a place at the table and plate up your meal. Now sit down to eat.
Pause and pay attention: If you are accustomed to eating your meals in a hurry, usually in between more ‘important’ tasks, you need to take a pause. A full working day usually does not give us the chance to sit down and savour a meal. In that case, designate at least one meal for eating mindfully. Eventually you will start doing it subconsciously for every meal.
Eat when your body tells you: In mindfulness we learn to listen to our body, its rhythms and needs. Your body is the best judge of when it’s hungry. So, only eat when your body tells you it needs food. If you have a regular schedule, your body will usually indicate its hunger around meal times. However, most of us end up eating at odd hours even when we are not hungry.
Do not eat emotionally: Food should make us happy, but it is not meant to compensate for grief or sorrow. Emotional eating is usually triggered when we are upset and seeking comfort from food. This often leads to extremely unhealthy choices, such us gorging on unhealthy food even when we are not really hungry. Instead, we must apply mindfulness in dealing with our negative emotions. Focus on your emotions, acknowledge them and then deal with them calmly and without judgement.
Note every ingredient: We are what we eat, goes the saying. Every food has a story and it is the ingredients that make the story. How can you be mindful of what you are eating if you don’t know what it is? So, pay attention to every ingredient on the plate. What are the vegetables, fruits or other food groups that you are consuming? How does each element taste? Experience your food with all your senses — its appearance, texture, taste and smell. Paying attention also slows down eating, helping us to focus on the food.
A paper presented at the European Congress on Obesity claimed that mindful eating can actually help us lose weight. The study was conducted by researchers from North Carolina State University in the US. There is no hidden magic to this finding other than that mindful eating is just a beautifully simple eating exercise.