I would define Mindful Eating as devoting time to pay attention to your food, appreciate sensory experiences, and be grateful for your ability to eat food. Mindful eating is something I introduced a few months ago, and it completely changed my appreciation and mindset towards food. Mindful eating goes back to the idea of having gratitude for the things you have in life, especially for the daily task of eating food. In the United States, eating food is seen as something to do when watching TV or seen as a quick task during the day, which fast-food restaurants take advantage of. This post will center around the need to eat your food mindfully by explaining how you can accomplish this and motivate you by explaining some benefits I have experienced paired with some scientific research.
Harvard Health Publishing’s article “8 Steps to Mindful Eating” provides a few valuable tips that can help you eat your food mindfully. The first thing you need to do is look at your shopping list. You should consider the health value of every item you purchase, avoid buying things impulsively, and think of the dedicated process some people went through to get this product to you. You should avoid processed foods as they are horrible for you and go through an industrial process instead of taking dedication and love from people. If you want to be your healthiest, I would recommend avoiding as much processed food as possible. Whether you do this or not is up to you. The second thing you need to do comes to the table with an appetite, but not when you are starving and would eat an entire animal. When some people are starving, they tend to devour the foods without taking the time to appreciate the meal they are eating. Instead of eating one large meal a day, eat smaller meals throughout the day to combat this. Interestingly enough, when people take the time to eat slower and appreciate the meal, they will find that they consume less food.
The third piece of advice is to start with a smaller portion of food, which I have previously described in a nutrition post. Limiting your plate’s size and the amount of food you have on the plate will help you appreciate the food more and find the individual tastes of each ingredient. The fourth tip is to appreciate the food. Before beginning to eat, pause for a minute or two before you start eating. In this time, contemplate and express gratitude for everything and everyone that went into bringing this meal to your mouth. Something I do before every meal is a variation of Thich Nhat Hanh’s five contemplations of Buddhism. The current thing I reiterate is:
- This food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sun, the sky, the stars and the hard and loving work of numerous beings.
- May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to enjoy every bite.
- May we transform our unwholesome mental formations (greed being an example), especially those that cause us harm, as they indirectly harm all we touch.
- May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our precious planet, and reverse the process of global warming
To note, I am not Buddhist but find value in a variety of Buddhist practices. This phrase helps me understand the world as a whole and fully appreciate the meal I receive. I would recommend trying to think of a phrase you want to say if you and repeating that for at least one meal a day for a week. After a week, if you find no value in this, you may stop saying a phrase. On top of a phrase, I spend approximately 30 seconds thanking anything I can think of that may have helped this food get to my plate. Whether it is the farmer for producing the vegetable, the one who made this meal, or the culture for creating the combination of spices. Express gratitude for anything that comes to mind.
The fifth thing you should do is bring all your senses to the meal. When you are cooking, serving, and eating, pay attention to things like the color, texture, aroma, taste, and even sounds of different foods. Before doing this, I only paid attention to the dish as a whole and was never really ecstatic unless I was eating my favorite meal. However, now I pay attention as much as I can, and it transformed my eating experience to always being something I enjoy. As you are chewing, try to identify all the ingredients and appreciate how all these tastes are coming together to make a delicious meal. The sixth, seventh, and eighth tips are to take small bites, chew your food thoroughly, and eat slowly. It is easier to taste food completely when your mouth is not full and you take the time to appreciate each ingredient’s individual tastes. For each bite, this may be hard to follow by trying to chew the food about 30 times before swallowing. This depends on the food you are eating as some dissolve in your mouth, but try to chew your food more (my maximum is 30 chews). Chewing well allows you to experience each ingredient’s full taste, and you will be happy with all the flavors it releases that make the meal tasty. Taking more time to appreciate the food makes you more grateful for the life which you have. Everybody wants to be happy with their lives, and if people are happy, they will be more productive. The fact that mindful eating helps accomplish happiness is the only benefit I needed to start this practice. Now, I am aware of all the ingredients and how much effort people put into the food products. The newfound appreciation I have for food makes every meal I eat a significant event in my day. While the task of eating used to be mundane and feel like a chore, mindful eating transformed this experience into something I am always happy with. If these benefits do not convince you, Skip Prichard’s article “The Many Benefits of Mindful Eating,” list other benefits such as improving the digestive process, increased enjoyment with life, reduced stress levels, prevention of obesity, reduced food cravings, weight loss, and reduced excess caloric intake. With all these benefits and the revolutionary impact on my life, I hope you start to integrate mindful eating into your lifestyle as it can have vast benefits for YOU.