Mindful Eating: 5 Easy Steps
There is a big difference between mind- FULL eating and mindful eating. Mind-FULL eating means that we are distracted by thoughts that can make it really difficult to be present during our meals. Mindful eating means that we give ourselves the space to become deeply aware of the food we are enjoying and the way that it affects our bodies.
Mindful eating was one of the ways I was able to change my relationship with food for the better. It allowed me the opportunity to move away from all of the conflicting ideas that come from food trends and focus on what felt good to me. It also made me deeply aware of the emotions that I carried into a meal. I later learned that because of our gut brain connection, when your parasympathetic nervous system is activated and you are in fight or flight, your body cannot properly absorb the nutrients coming from food because it is working to translate any food into quick fuel. Mindful eating also helped me appreciate just how many flavors can be packed into one food! Finally, it helped me to be more conscious about where our food comes from and to take time to be grateful for all the work that goes into bringing food to our plates which has helped me to develop stronger relationships with local farms and companies that promote sustainable practices.
There are many different ways to approach mindful eating. I use five steps:
Presence: first take away any distractions. I know it can be difficult on a busy day, but challenge yourself to set aside thirty minutes just once a day to start. Turn off the television, put away the computer, and set aside your phone. Make it an exciting experience for yourself. You can light a candle and use one of your favorite plates. By creating an experience around a meal, you can become more deeply aware of how you feel- which is the first step to creating positive shift.
Awareness: observe how you feel. The more I study the gut-brain connection, the more important this step becomes. When we eat in a state of fight or flight, our body does not absorb nutrients from our food because it is working to translate it into quick fuel. It is important, therefore, to take a moment before you eat to notice how you feel. What emotions are coming up? This step can also help you to understand your hunger cues as well. How do you feel physically?
Observation: savoring your food. How many times have you eaten something and then realized “woah, how is that gone? I didn’t even taste it!” This step is to help you to really, truly enjoy your food. The more you observe, the more you can recognize the flavors and textures that you like, and maybe the ones you do not like.
Non-Judgement: let the guilt go. There are so many food trends, and they are constantly changing. Let of labeling foods as “good” and “bad”. Guilt just hinders your ability to both enjoy the food and digest it!
Gratitude: be thankful. This is the most important step in my opinion. Take a moment to be grateful for what the food is doing for your body and your mind. How is it fueling you? Take a moment to be grateful for who prepared your food. Take a moment to be thankful for every step that it took to get the food to your plate. Where did the ingredients come from? The more that you practice gratitude in your mindful eating, the more healing your meal experience will be. For me, this was the piece of the puzzle that released me from feeling worried around meals to feeling connected and inspired by the way that I choose to fuel myself!
Try journaling about each of these questions and how you feel after the meal. The more mindfulness you can welcome into all areas of your life, the more connected, energized and powerful you will feel!