What do you do whilst you eat?
Many of us will check our phone, watch TV, chat, work. The list goes on. If you grew up in a busy, bustling home, you probably also got used to eating quickly, before anything was taken from your plate or before the portions ran out. For most of us, childhood eating wasn’t about paying attention, being present and savouring the food in front of us. It was about avoiding eating our greens, eating enough savoury food to be rewarded with desert or persuading our parents to let us have mac and cheese – again!
For those reasons and several others, the humble art of eating has become a backdrop activity rather than a main event. It’s rare to see someone doing nothing at all apart from focussing on what they’re putting in their mouth. Smartphones have also taken their toll on our eating habits, as have snack foods and convenience meals.
But paying attention to your food has a direct and rapid impact on the way you consume. Mindful eating teaches us to zone in to the present moment, pay full attention to the smells, textures and flavours of our food and to get maximum satisfaction from the things we eat.
Mindful Eating is a Simple Concept.
It asks that when we consume something, we focus all of our mental attention onto that thing. From the look and shape of it, to the warmth, colour and smell. Mindful eating is about taking in every aspect of the food we eat and really savouring the moment of consumption. It’s about pulling all of your conscious energy into the act of eating and blocking out all other distractions whilst you do it, so that you can take in every aspect of the experience.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
And there are several proven benefits of mindful eating too. Not only can reducing environmental stimulation and distractions during eating help with digestion, but it can also reduce our stress levels and increase the amount of satisfaction we get from our meals, which leads us to eat less and reduce overeating and all of the associated medical complications that come with it.
Mindful eating is a branch of mindfulness, which is simply the act of attempting to experience the current moment as fully as you possibly can in order to stay fully present and calm. It is the act of reducing cluttering thoughts and concerns about past and present moments that are not serving us and are raising our anxiety levels. Any moment can be practiced in a mindful way, from washing your hands to going for a jog or going through your morning routine.
Practicing mindfulness at mealtimes is a quick and easy way to get started with a mindfulness practice, or a simple way to add extra consciousness and relaxation to your precious meal breaks.
Want to get started? There’s a very famous mindful eating exercise that can offer you a simple induction into the process and help you to change your habits. Try mindfully eating a piece of fruit. An orange or Satsuma work brilliantly for this challenge.
First, take the Satsuma and hold it in your hand for a few minutes. Look at the texture of the skin, feel the skin under your fingers and take in the smell of the fruit. Next, begin to peel the orange while concentrating on the look and smell of the skin as it comes away. Watch as the orange beneath is revealed and fully take in the new smell, texture and colour. Recognise that you are the first person ever to see the inside of this piece of fruit. If you’re eating alone, you may be the only person who ever sees it.
Next, tear off a segment of orange and put it into your mouth, but don’t chew it. Feel the orange segment on your tongue and begin to taste the sweetness of the fruit. Hold it on your tongue for up to two minutes, before you allow yourself to bite into it. Next, simply continue to eat the whole orange in this way.
You can practice this kind of exercise with any type of food or fruit. Before you know it, the exercise will become habit and you’ll be a fully fledged mindful eater.