“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.”
Can you truly remember the food you ate last time?
What did it taste like? How did you feel?
How much did you eat?
Did you feel guilty about eating too much?
If you’re among the majority, chances are you won’t be able to answer such questions confidently.
Maybe you were engaged in your smartphone, lost in a conversation with your colleague, or simply lost in your thoughts that you hardly paid attention to your food.
Many might be watching TV while gulping down food without paying any attention to it.
Whatever may be the reason, the fact is we no longer eat like we used to or we should.
Yea, we love food for sure. Who doesn’t?
But very few practice the art of eating.
Enter Mindful Eating.
What is Mindful Eating?
Put it simply, mindful eating is eating with full awareness and attention on your food. That means being present and totally focused while eating.
Sounds simple enough? Yes and No.
“Mindful eating means simply eating or drinking while being aware of each bite or sip.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
The mindful eating practice originates from the mindfulness concept of Buddhism. It involves engaging your whole senses while eating.
However, mindful eating is much more than simply paying attention to food. It also includes a few other things- and important things if one may add.
Before that, let me ask you something?
Why do you eat?
The question may seem trivial to you at first but it is a crucial question.
You may say- to get energy and nutrition so that you can function properly.
And when do you know you need energy? Simply when you feel hungry, right?
Or is it so?
Ask yourself, do you only eat when you are hungry?
Or are there sometimes when you eat not because you are hungry but because you feel certain emotions?
Like when you feel angry about something, stressed at work, feel depressed about your life?
How often do you feel the urge to eat your favorite chocolate ice cream (or whichever flavor you may like) in such situations?
As soon as you put that first scoop into your mouth, all your worries seem to melt away like that ice cream in your mouth.
However, you hardly stop at one scoop no matter how much you are trying to lose weight.
In no time, you are gulping down food without even being aware of its heavenly taste or taking a pause to enjoy its delicious flavor!
This is what is known as mindless or emotional eating.
The bottom line is that there are many other factors which often lead to eating in the modern world. These factors have little or no relation to your hunger and food is just a temporary refuge from reality for many.
This is, in fact, the major reason behind the obesity epidemic and other widespread diseases in the world.
Mindful eating aims to identify all these factors, feel all emotions instead of suppressing them with food, and eating your meals with total attention.
So when you engage in a mindful eating practice, you are aware of many things. You pay attention to many questions like:
- Why are you eating? Are you really hungry or just trying to escape from some feelings or emotions?
- What are you eating? Is it healthy? Is it tasty? What does it look like?
- How are you eating? Are you simply gulping down the food or taking the time to enjoy all sensations of food in your mouth?
- What do you feel before, during, and after eating? What emotions do you experience in these times?
Mindful eating encompasses contemplation of all these questions with a mindful awareness.
So, how do you eat mindfully?
Remember that mindful eating is tough. You are so used to eating food at high speed that you may and will get frustrated when you try the practice initially. Do not worry or get discouraged by it.
Take small steps.
Next time when you eat food, ask yourself why do you want to eat food? Is it just because you are hungry or you are experiencing uncomfortable feelings?
If that is so, see if you can feel those emotions fully without resorting to eating. Experience them, take a deep breath, and notice the physical sensations in your body.
When you are about to eat, notice different colors on your plate, touch it and feel their texture, inhale the aroma and imagine your senses getting engulfed by it.
Next, take a small bite and put it in your mouth. Chew it slowly appreciating its taste and various sensations it evokes on your tongue.
It is similar like your grandma used to say. Chew your foods at least 22-30 times before you ingest it.
Mindful eating is much like that except that you actually chew and notice every sensation and feelings that arise while you eat it.
Take pauses between consecutive bites. Try to identify all ingredients present in your meal as you engage your senses to eat it mindfully.
Feel how your body reacts to food. Notice when it gets full and you no longer want to eat.
When you finish eating, take a pause and see how you feel after eating.
Which emotions arise after eating?
Do you feel grateful for such an eating experience or feel guilty if you still ate your favorite junk food, although mindfully? (You don’t have to, by the way, as if you really ate mindfully, chances are you’d have eaten way lesser than what you used to eat mindlessly)
Why Mindful Eating?
Now that you know what is mindful eating, next question arises, why you must eat mindfully?
After all, you have a busy life. You simply do not have time to eat like a Buddhist monk, after all.
It is so much easier to finish your food in few minutes and get back to work rather than spending half an hour eating at a painfully slow pace.
Or simply finishing your food at your desk itself without stopping the work, right?
However, you’d be surprised how much eating like this cost your health and well being. When you eat mindlessly like that, there is a significantly higher chance of overeating.
You never really know when you are full as it takes time for the body to let your brain know that you are full. By the time it happens, you have shoved down enough extra food down your throat.
Moreover, you never get to enjoy the taste of food, appreciate its inherent beauty, and just be thankful for it. You’d be surprised how powerful a simple act of saying thanks for your meal can be!
In addition to it, there are several too-good-to-believe but real benefits of mindful eating. These include less binge eating, weight loss, healthier food choices, improved mental well-being, and a better relationship with food.
The biggest upside of mindful eating is that you get to experience benefits of meditation while eating your food. Because essentially, eating mindfully is just another way of practicing mindfulness with a day to day activity.
You can call it a food meditation or eating meditation, but it remains a mindfulness practice in essence.
To Sum Up:
Mindful eating is not a hidden dieting strategy, even if it may seem at first. After all, when you eat mindfully, more than often you eat considerably lesser than you are used to.
However, eating mindfully is a way of life.
It is how you should have been eating all this time. It is a natural way of eating in response to needs of your body rather than of your emotions.
Including this practice into your life can bring huge changes in your physical and mental health over a period of time.
Especially when you don’t have time for a regular meditation practice, just take out few moments of your day to eat and drink mindfully.
It can bring similar effects on your mood and well-being like a short session of mindfulness meditation.
Have you ever tried mindful eating? What difficulties did you face? Did you experience any difference in your mental state when you ate mindfully? Share with me in the comments below.
To receive regular updates in your inbox from Doing Meditation Without Mumbo Jumbo, enter your email address below: