The Secret Benefits of Mindful Eating
When most people think about mindfulness and eating, they think it’s about counting the number of times you chew a piece of food. And while I understand the benefit of chewing your food for digestive purposes, if I’m honest, the thought of chewing my food to a complete slurry skeeves me out. LOL
But that’s not really what mindfulness is about anyway. It’s about awareness. Being present.
Several years ago my husband and I bought a table. We bought the table because it reminded us of the hobbits from the Shire in The Lord of the Rings books. Unfortunately, having a table wasn’t enough to make us use it, because the table set unused in the dining room for several years.
Then, one day it registered that I was making dinner and then we were sitting in front of the television, and I wasn’t really enjoying my food. I was eating it so quickly I hardly realized it was happening. And on top of that, I was adding whatever emotions I experienced due to the show to my eating experience, which wasn’t that beneficial most of the time. So the next night I suggested, “why don’t we sit at the table?”
And so, we started eating our meals at the dinner table. And having conversation. And talking about our days. And believe it or not, our relationship improved. But not just that, our eating habits improved. It was easier for me to touch in and check in with my body without the distraction of the TV. I could determine was I still hungry? Was I done? And at that point, it became more and more likely for me to leave food on my plate because realized I was no longer hungry, or more surprising – just didn’t want any more of it.
And so that practice has been very beneficial for us.
But most weekdays I’m actually by myself for lunch. And so my tendency has been to make my lunch, and then sit in front of the computer and eat it. Well, that isn’t exactly mindful is it?
You don’t have to sit at a table simply because you’re with someone else or you have company. Sitting at the table is a great way to get mindful about your food. It helps you to stay present and focus on the flavors, and the textures. Which overall leads to a more satisfying experience.
And the proof is in the pudding (no pun intended.)
Recently, I had an extremely busy day; rushing around, trying to get things done, and I hadn’t eaten. In my rush I chose a meal replacement protein bar to have as my “lunch.” Normally, I would have just eaten the bar while I was doing something else, like working on social media, or checking in with clients, or writing emails, or whatever.
But that day, I made the conscious choice to take my bar out of its wrapper, cut it up into bite-size pieces, and put it in a bowl. Then, I sat at a table and ate the pieces of my bar.
What this did was gave me the opportunity to really taste the bar and decide whether or not I really liked it. Did I like the texture? Did I like the flavor? I mused on whether or not the bar actually tasted like the flavor on the label.
(Side note: Most bars, I’ve found, don’t taste a whole lot like the thing that they’re named after. Most birthday cake flavored bars don’t really taste like birthday cake.)
But eating the bar in this way gave me an opportunity, and instead of scarfing down the few bites of bar that I had in my bowl, I found that I took even smaller bites of the bar. So, instead of eating an entire protein bar in five or six bites, I took more like 16 or 20 bites. It was a whole new experience for me.
So, the next stop for me on this journey of mindfulness and making peace with myself and with my food is to make sure that all meals are eaten at the table, without distraction – not just meals with my husband or meals with the family. All meals and all snacks should be eaten at a table or at the very least without distraction. This means, not behind the wheel of a car. Not sitting in a parking lot. Not in front of the computer. Not with an iPad in my hand. =)
The point in me telling you all of this is simply to let you know that there’s always room for improvement. There are always tweaks that can be made. There are always ideas and new ways of doing things that may be better than what you’re doing right now. So, keep your mind open; keep your ideas flowing.