In our rush to get from one activity to the next, eating often gets pushed back as a task on a to-do list. We race to get something to eat, to then stuff our faces while our minds are concentrating on anything but the foods on our plates and then we hurry back to our desks to finish checking off things from that never-ending list.
Eating becomes a mechanical act. We bite, we chew, we swallow, barely giving thought to what we’re actually doing.
I had this experience recently with a pear. There I was, reading an article about how healthcare technology is putting patients back in the driver’s seat for their health, and inhaling my pear. Literally, gobbling it down without sparing a thought to the flavor or texture or how it was nourishing my body. I just went through the robotic motions of biting, chewing, and swallowing while my eyes were glued to the screen.
About halfway through my pear, I stopped and realized how awful this was. The irony of what I was doing juxtaposed with what I was reading wasn’t lost on me either. It was mid-morning and I was already starving. The pear was meant to get me past that hump until lunch, but I couldn’t muster the energy to pay attention to what I was doing long enough to feel anything. Instead of feeling satiated, I still felt hungry.
I took that moment to stop and refocus my energy on the pear. The shape, the color, the scent, the taste. I turned off my screen so I would have even fewer distractions. The goal was to engage all my senses in the experience of eating that pear. And it was worth that effort. I actually felt satisfied by the end of the process.
We’ve trained ourselves to fill each moment with more than one activity. Our fear of missing out (#FOMO for the cool kids), keeps us locked in a cycle of constant connectivity and anxiety. Taking the time to focus on just eating almost seems like a luxury. That’s what Europeans do, right? Siestas and long dinners where people are doing nothing but eating and drinking? That can’t be healthy.
Is finishing a large club sandwich in under five minutes healthy?
We’ve lost touch with how the act of eating affects our physical, emotional and mental health. It’s so more than just a biological function.
By applying some of the principles behind mindful meditation to eating, we can explore how increasing our attention to the foods we eat and the process of consumption can positively impact our health.
3 (of many) health benefits of mindful eating:
- Taking the time to eat mindfully engages all of our senses and encourages self-awareness. By experiencing each part of the process in an unhurried fashion, you can evaluate how your food choices make you feel. Consider the choice between a bag of potato chips and a small green salad. How do the different colors appeal to you? What did the chips feel like on your hands? Did the salty chips taste better than the salad by the end? Keep your mind open to all of these observations.
- Mindful eating awakens a connection to family, culture, and tradition. Sitting down to enjoy a meal with friends or family forges a bond. This creates new, positive experiences around food that can help build healthier habits over time. It nourishes the soul as much as the body.
- If soul nourishing isn’t on your agenda today, then consider how mindful eating can help you lose weight. By giving the brain time to process the physical act of eating, your body can properly digest the necessary nutrients from your meal and signal the brain that it’s actually satisfied. This is metabolism folks. The body was built for this. Forget about foods that speed this up for you. Dedicate each meal time to just eating and you’ll find that you have a better idea of what foods will give you energy and make you feel great, decrease the need for snacking, and keep you from overeating.
The next time you sit down to a meal, forget about your schedule. Turn off all of your electronic devices. Focus all of your energy on the foods in front of you.
What does it look like?
How does it feel in your hands?
Does the aroma remind you of a happy memory?
Relish in that for a minute before you dig in. As you start to eat, take your time. Everything you need to do will keep for twenty minutes.
Will you give this a shot?
How do you feel about mindful meditation?
How much time do you spend eating each meal?