I love to eat. I am also a recovering emotional eater who's been known to put away an entire pizza in one sitting if triggered by an unsettling event or memory.
As we become busier and busier in a society bombarded with electronic devices and social media updates, it’s no wonder many of us feel increasingly distracted. We rush through our meals so we can get back to work, our favorite TV show, or Instagram. Walk into any restaurant and you're bound to see people with their heads down, clicking away at their phones, pretending to be engaged with what's going on around them.
Which is why when I recently learned about "mindful eating," I was immediately intrigued.
During a weeklong spiritual retreat at a yoga and health center, silent breakfasts were implemented. We couldn't communicate at all: no asking if something was gluten-free, no small talk with table mates, nothing.
At first I thought, "How am I going to do this?" I’m extremely outgoing, love getting to know people, and sharing a meal is a perfect time to socialize. What I found, however, is that practicing the art of silent breakfast is not only doable, it's also enjoyable and has some serious health benefits.
You don't need to keep quiet at every meal to eat mindfully; what it comes down to, really, is eating with intention and attention. Listen to what your body tells you it wants as fuel. Pay attention to your food rather than your phone. Be aware of how food makes you feel.
Here are some of the benefits I've experienced from continuing a practice of mindful eating:
1. Peace of mind.
When I eat in silence, I find myself at ease and stress-free. Focusing on my body and the food in front of me without having to worry about making conversation or keeping up gives me the opportunity to deeply relax into my dining space and engage all my senses with each bite. For the first time, I can truly pay attention to how something looks on a plate, the delicious aromas wafting into my nose, how something sounds as I cut into it, the crunch between my teeth and the taste.
The intention of eating in silence is to center you for a day of calm and peace, and starting your day with a mindful eating practice fires up each of your five senses, resulting in a clear, focused, creative, joyful day ahead.
2. Weight loss
When I practice mindful eating, I consume about a third of what I normally eat. Why? When I'm not focused on a screen, I enjoy my food more and instantly notice when I'm full. Because I am listening to my body, I stop eating when it tells me it's had enough rather than ignoring it or missing signals because I'm distracted.
I find it's much easier to control the amount of food I eat, and I feel more satisfied than when I eat mindlessly.
3. Proper nourishment
Savor the moment. We're so conditioned to talk, swipe, text, and email while eating, but truly nourishing yourself is more than just what you eat. Nourishment is about sustenance: what you feed your body but also how you fuel your soul. Nurture yourself during meals by being fully present, and truly enjoying your food.
Here are several simple ways you can practice mindful eating:
- Relax the body and mind with a few deep breaths before eating.
- Send gratitude to everyone who prepared your food.
- Admire your food; notice all the shapes and colors.
- Breathe in all the wonderful aromas of the meal.
- Chew thoroughly, delighting in the depths of flavor.
- Relax for a few minutes before moving to the next event.
Mindful eating is a daily commitment and might take some practice. The keys are awareness, nonjudgment and understanding what you’re feeding. Are you physically hungry for food or something else, like love or comfort? When you aren't distracted, it’s much easier to differentiate between the two, and when you're aware, you can make healthier choices.