Mindful eating is one of the best ways to bring more joy into your relationship with food. Notice I didn’t say it’s the best way to lose weight. Mindful eating can help you lose weight, but that’s not the main goal.
Often in the halls of fitness, food is made into an enemy. Food becomes an object of obsession. We must study, prod, and portion everything. We count calories, eat paleo, go vegan. Then we fall back into our old habits.
Why Diets Work Sort-of
Any part of life gets better, if you start paying attention. If you keep a budget you spend your money better. If you decide to only eat foods that begin with the letter b and c, you will eat less.
You may not eat a balanced diet, but you will eat less. You eat less because you are paying attention. This is great, but it has its limits.
What do all diets have in common? They give us lots of rules to follow. The problem is rules exist in the world of the mind. But we don’t eat with our minds.
The mind isn’t hungry for food. It’s hungry for more data about food. The mind doesn’t love a succulent juicy orange, or a crisp salty potato chip. It loves, rules, calories, facts, and studies.
I Have the Hunger
So what’s hungry for food? The mouth wants taste. The stomach wants substance. The heart wants comfort that good food gives.
Most diet plans only give us information to satisfy our minds. They do little to help the mouth, stomach, or heart. Very often diets tell us to ignore our instincts. They tell us to achieve our goals; we must subvert our desires.
This is almost always a path to failure. The drive to eat is primal. Filling our head with facts isn’t the same as filling our bellies with food.
Some people can subvert desires and instincts for a little while. But these drives need to be honored. Most dietary plans just aren’t up to this task.
This is where mindful eating is different than diets. You don’t push down your desires. You get to know them. You learn to enjoy food more. Often if you enjoy it more, you’re satisfied with less.
Don’t Eat With Your Mind Full
We often zone out while we are eating. When we zone out, we eat more food. When we practice mindful eating we zone into the food. When we zone it we savor it and often find we are satisfied with less.
Diets increase our anxiety around food. We feel like we have to be hyper-aware or it all falls apart. Diets make paying attention and enjoying food opposite things.
Mindful eating brings paying attention and enjoying food together. When we pay attention we get all the texture, flavors, and tastes of our food. Best of all learning to enjoy food, helps us have a healthy relationship with it.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The best part about mindful eating is that there are lots of chances to practice. We all have to eat on a regular basis and there are some very simple practices you can try out that will help you enjoy food even more.
The first and simplest practice to start eating mindfully today is to stop Eating+.
Eating+ checking email
Eating+ watching TV
Eating+ talking on the phone
Eating+ reading a book, magazine, or newspaper
Eating+ worrying about our day
Eating+ talking non-stop
When we Eat+ we subtract taste, flavor, and awareness of hunger. But Eating+ is what most of us do. It seems like people have forgotten how to just eat in our society.
Try these 3 things to stop Eating+:
1. Turn it off– Turn off as much as you can. This means radio, TV, computer, and especially your phone. At my house growing up we never answered the phone during dinner. This is a great practice to start, especially when eating with your loved ones.
2. 5 mins of silence – If you are alone try not to think too much about your day, what you have to do after you eat, or really anything other than the food. Try to focus on the food completely.
If you are eating with someone else, you’ll have to ask for silence.
You might try saying, ”Hey, this is one of my favorite dishes. Do you mind if we just eat in silence just for the first 5 minutes? I really want to savor this.”
Another way is, “Hey, I’m trying out this new mindful eating thing. I thought we could try it out together. Do you mind if we just eat in silence just for the first 5 minutes?”
3. 3 Mindful Bites – Speed is often the antithesis of awareness. So when you eat mindfully it helps to slow down.
Take a bite. Hold it in your mouth for a second. Chew slowly. Imagine you are eating the most delicious meal of your life. Notice flavor, scent, texture, and consistency.
You don’t have to do it the whole meal, but try starting off that way. If you eat your first 3 bites mindfully, you are much more likely to be aware for the whole meal.
Mindful eating doesn’t have to be a daily habit. You can start with just one or two meals a week. Remember the goal is to learn to appreciate food and find satisfaction. You will be surprised by how little it takes to satisfy you when you’re paying attention.
Have you ever tried mindful eating? What has worked for your practice?