Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and in the moment, without judgment. We are often preoccupied with to do lists, thoughts about what happened yesterday, or fears about what might happen tomorrow. Many of us take our selves out of the moment in this manner when it comes to mealtime too. Mindfulness is a great tool that can help us fully enjoy the experience of eating a meal, and studies have shown that mindfulness-based practices can even help improve eating habits. This is even more important for those who binge-eat, or eat emotionally (for comfort or as a response to stress).
On one of our favorite websites, Wynne Armand, MD, describes her tips for mindful eating. Some of these include:
- Sit down: Instead of eating at the kitchen counter or on the go, take the time to sit down and appreciate the food.
- Reflect: Before taking your first bite, take a moment to notice how you feel (Stressed? Rushed? Hungry? What do you want and what do you need?). Once you know the difference between what you want and need, you can make a conscious choice about what and how you want to eat.
- Turn of the TV (and other screens): Distractions make it harder to be aware of what and how much we are eating.
- Give gratitude: Before starting to eat, take a moment to pause and acknowledge the work that went into providing the meal (be it yourself for cooking it, the farmers who grew it, the animals, the chef, etc).
- Chew 30 (yes 30) times: Trying to get 30 chews out of each bite (this is a rough guide) allows us to really take time to enjoy the flavors and textures of the food before swallowing.
- Put down your utensil: Putting down your fork or knife between each bite slows the experience of eating down, so that we can be more present.
- Silence: Once in a while, try to eat a meal in silence. Its normal for the mind to wander, but as much as possible, bring the focus back to the experience of eating. Be conscious of the food’s consistency, flavor, tastes, and smells.