Our days are busier than ever, we run from A to Z to tick of the next box on the list. We are rarely present, as our thoughts are caught up with the next thing on the agenda. This kind of lifestyle has led us to be a shadow in our own life - just half-present.
This rush has led us to "inhale" or even scoff down the food we are eating. We rarely remember what food we had yesterday or what it tasted like. This may also explain why so many of us suffer from gut problems, digestion issues, headaches and heartburns; although this might not be the only factor.
Here's the thing, when we spend so much time cooking, should we not spend a fair amount of time enjoying the meal we prepared, as well? Even though we live in a fast-paced society, we need to eat. Food is essential for us to survive, but we have to take a step back and be more present during the meals. Before we get to our beginner's guide, what is mindful eating?
There’s more to mindful eating than just simply consuming foods slowly without any distractions.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally”. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society.
Applying this saying requires us to be fully aware of food and the process of eating, which impacts our attitudes and behaviours towards food. Mindfulness encompasses every element related to eating from food preparation, recognising physical hunger, acknowledging food preferences to eating for satisfaction and satiety.
If you're ready to embark on this mindfulness journey, here are a few tips to get your started:
Be present in your body and Identify internal cues
A starting point would be to recognise hunger and satiety by using a scale from 0 -10 to rate your hunger and feeling of fullness. 0 = Most hungry/”Starving” and 10 = least hungry / “Stuffed or extremely full”. The goal pre-meals is to get to a point where you are “ready to eat” so think of a rating of around 4. After a meal, the goal here is to get to a point of “satisfaction”, which perhaps implies a rating of 7/8. Being at “0” can cause you to feel irritable, tired, shaky and “hangry”, which may lead to mindless eating and can also cause you to jump straight to a “10”. Being at the other end of scale, you may then feel bloated, extremely uncomfortable, tired and some may even feel guilt. Using this scale can help you reconnect with your internal hunger and satiety cues and understand your eating behaviours a little better.
When eating I would recommend you to leave all screens and activities until you are done with the meal. This may also remind you to chew chew chew! Chew your food well and place your cutlery down between bites. Perhaps you could even start by chewing 10-15 times. Now the benefits of chewing your meal intuitively are 1) slowing down the pace of eating allowing you to be more in tune with your internal cues of fullness and 2) helps with digestion, since it all starts with chewing!
Create a nice and comfortable atmosphere
Set the table, light candles and put on a soothing tune. Even if you're just one person, treat yourself and make an effort because you are worth it.
Sit at the table
Try to always sit down, while eating. Rushing around and eating is a bad habit and can disrupt digestion and stresses the gastrointestinal tract. It might even lead to bloating and stomach ache. Another tip related to sitting is to sit up straight! Eating with a slouched posture is not helpful. Digestion benefits from having a straight back.
Take your time
Ideally, we should make our meals last 15-20 minutes. From putting your cutlery down between every bite and chewing well, slowing down can help you appreciate your meal more and help you eat until you are satisfied and not overly full. It's all about reconnecting with your internal cues!
And finally, remember to take a breath.