One core idea behind eating mindfully is to turn food into an experience. This involves being fully present and tuning out distractions and tuning into your meal. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent and away from the table, and simply reduce as much background noise and interruptions as possible. Food can be more fully experienced when you connect to the source of the food, cook it yourself, sit at a table with no technology, and put your full attention on the meal in front of you.
Questions you can ask yourself are:
1. How am I physically and mentally feeling before the meal?
2. Does my brain feel cluttered or am I able to focus on the food in front of me?
3. How do my portions look for how hungry I am?
4. What can I do to make peace with the meal and my body before I begin eating?
5. Is there anything else I can do to create an environment that will drive a mindful experience with this meal?
Before you begin your meal, take note of the colors, textures, and aromas of your food. Notice the way the light bounces off of each ingredient, the shadows they project onto the plate, and the way in which the food is arranged. Envision how each ingredient will taste and all of the nutrients that will be flowing into your body.
What words are bouncing around in your head? What emotions are evoked because of this meal?
Pick up your eating utensil and thoughtfully place a small portion of food on it. Breathe deeply before and after each bite, chewing slowly, and savoring every texture and flavor.
Notice the progression of satiation as you continue through your meal. Begin to learn your body well enough to be able to identify when you are comfortably full - no longer hungry, but also not "stuffed". This is the best point at which to end your meal, to prevent over eating and mindless eating, regardless of whether or not your plate is clean.
For perspective -
Mindless Eating: You are sitting in front of the TV and devouring a whole bag of nutritious-less chips, for example, without ever looking down, savoring the flavors, or noticing how much you are consuming. You come to a point where you realize the food is gone, you don’t feel fully satisfied, and you are craving more sweet/salty food and finding your way back to the kitchen for more. You start to feel sluggish, or even guilty about your mindless binge eat in front of the TV, but you continue the cycle time and time again because you do not realize there is another way.
Mindful Eating: You are sitting at a table free of distractions with a beautiful array of strategically plated and nutritious food. You feel pride over the love you put into the preparation of the meal and are eager to fully embrace it. You start by noticing the different textures, temperatures, colors, and smells coming from your plate. You begin to eat with intention, staying tuned into your senses and emotions throughout the whole meal. By the end you feel fully satisfied and more connected with your food. You are not overly full or sluggish, instead you feel happy and energized.
Mindful eating is a healthy practice you can integrate into your life starting out with one snack or meal a day. It is a skill you can refine over time until you become fully connected to your food and develop a healthy relationship with food and your body. It is a practice that helps reduce over eating, binge eating, and the negative emotions, such as guilt or shame, often associated with both.
Mindful eating is best paired with eating nourishing, vibrant foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fresh herbs and spices. When thoughtfully prepared, these foods have high flavor profiles and provide essential nutrients that boost your energy and mood and set you on a path to a healthy lifestyle.
About the Guest-Blogger: Sarah Colette is a Certified Personal Trainer, Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor, and Lifestyle Design Consultant. She lives in Austin, TX and spends her days mentoring her clients, exploring Austin, learning new skills, reading, writing, and creating.