How to eat with a little more mindfulness.
Mindful Eating and Mindfulness in general is a popular concept but can be a bit confusing. When I read about the mindful eating practice years ago I imagined sitting at a big empty table all by myself with a single plate of food. Each forkful must be observed and very slooooowly chewed until your jaw hurt. To me this seemed like torture. Not only did it feel unpleasant but I could never really make it happen and that frustrated me even more. I can't do this! I must be...mindless?
Learning more about mindfulness in meditation and daily life I have a different view on how to make this work with eating and drinking. We eat for lots of reasons, hunger is only one of them. We also eat because it's pleasurable and fun. (Mmmm, corn on the cob!) Enjoying food in a mindful way can lead to a healthier, happier, more relaxed experience. And that's a good thing. Here are a few ways to try it out.
Plan ahead. I highly recommend planning most meals in advance. Even if it's just a general idea of what you'll be eating. In addition, take a moment before each meal to decide how much you want to eat. When I get home from work totally famished I often take a second before getting out of the car to think through my lunch plan. If I don't do this -- all hell breaks loose once I'm in the kitchen.
Focus on the first few bites. I actually ate a plate of barely heated left-over Thai chicken and vegetables recently because I was too distracted to get up and return it to the microwave. Honestly, another minute would have done the trick but I was more interested in my email inbox. Eating Experience: poor.
Check in along the way. I don't believe we have to separate eating from ALL other activities. But, opening a bag of chips in front of the TV is a recipe for disaster. If you are reading or engaging in conversation remember to pause and put the fork down every few minutes. Are you still hungry? Is your food actually warm?!?
Wrap it up. If you put things away in the kitchen before sitting down for dinner it makes clean up easier and post-meal snacking less enticing. Go ahead and put leftovers in containers for lunches right away. When you are done eating, wash dishes immediately or put them straight in the dishwasher. This can help signal your mind that you are done, and you mean it!
If this is something you practice I'd love to hear your tips and ideas too!