What would your life be like if you treated food and your body as you would a loved one — with patience, gentleness, playfulness, communication, honesty, respect and love?
Friends and clients often tell me how busy they are — and I often feel the same stress. We have errands to run and piles of emails to read and respond to. We feel the responsibilities for our lives, our work, and the demands of our relationships. These to-do lists create the feeling that there just isn’t enough time in the day. We end up eating as we run out the door, in the car, in front of the TV or computer, while on the phone, standing in front of the refrigerator, standing at the stove, or while clearing the table.
The result is there is no chance of pleasure or calm. We need to clear out the mental clutter and bring mindfulness to the table.
Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening right now in the moment. It’s cultivating an attitude of open hearted non-judgment. When we are present with our experience, rather than caught up in constant thinking and analyzing, there is greater serenity and peace of mind. With that serenity comes the connection to self that is vital to existing in a loving state of being.
When we eat mindfully we can appreciate and derive pleasure from our food. Eating becomes an exercise where we can engage our senses. Pleasure is a huge part of the equation when finding freedom with food. When there is pleasure there is no guilt, no shame and no fear.
Do you eat while distracted, or do you eat in an effort to distract yourself from what is eating YOU?
For many, the confusion that surrounds our food choices creates a situation where we are questioning and judging what we are eating and how it will affect our bodies. Instead of experiencing the complexity and deliciousness of our food, we become disconnected from our hunger and fullness.
A different but equally challenging scenario is when we eat in an effort not to feel what is causing us pain or stress. When we eat in an effort to deflect and distract from what is real, we miss the opportunity to be nourished on a soulful level.
Eating mindfully, without distraction, allows us to discover and savor the sight, smell, texture and taste of our food. By slowing down, we can fully experience the elements of our food, creating awareness of and satiety with appropriate portions. We can answer the call to hunger and stop when we’ve had enough.
Eating mindfully and soulfully, allows us to develop a healthy, and ultimately a wonderful, relationship with food.
Mindful eating is a practice and takes practice to achieve.
The gift of mindfulness is that we can create the experience we are longing for, simply by setting an intention. Just like when we set out to learn to ride a bike or improve our computer skills, we set our minds to the task without distraction. It's not easy, but the rewards are great. We need patience, gentleness and some degree of playfulness in order to succeed with the tasks of our lives. Those same virtues are vital as we learn to honor, respect and love our bodies and ourselves.
Embrace the concept of mindfulness at the table by incorporating these simple and practical action steps:
- Eat while sitting at the table, without distractions. This means eating without the distractions from TV, newspaper, computer, upsetting conversations, or loud music. When your attention is on something other than the food on your plate, you'll be distracted from what’s happening inside your body.
- Let go of any negative thoughts and judgments you may have about the food you want to eat. Instead, focus on the positive values. For example, "Healthy fat will make my skin soft and my hair shine."
- Become aware of the smell, taste, and texture of the food as you focus on the positive energy you will gain form the experience of eating.
- Swallow your food completely before you take another bite. Be aware of the consistency. Notice how it changes.
- Observe everything about the meal that nourishes you — the people you are with, your surroundings, and the conversation you’re having or listening to. Be present and become aware of how present you are. Let go of judgmental thoughts about the food you are about to eat.
- Set the intention to slowly and gently return to the experience of here and now, being willing and loving in doing so.
You can achieve the lasting results you desire by practicing mindful eating. If you forget, be gentle as you remind yourself it’s a practice, one meal at a time.