Mindful eating is actually one of my favorite subjects because we could be eating the best food in the world, but if we’re eating it in a hurry or while we’re upset, or in a very stressful place, we are not going to get the full nourishment from that food.
Addressing how we eat is just as important as addressing what we eat.
Mindful eating is just about paying attention, and so that’s something we can all do. It’s free, and it is available to us at all times at all meals. Many of us, if we’re eating in a hurry or eating while at work, for example, or eating in a car, sometimes we might even have that feeling of, “Oh, who ate my food?” You have a bowl of food in front of you, and you’re eating while distracted, and then there’s no more food, and you go, “What just happened?” If we don’t pay attention, we don’t send all of the cues to our bodies to start digestion. Digestion starts in the brain. Even if you close your eyes for a second and think of your favorite food, you might notice that you start releasing saliva. The brain starts sending messages to the whole body to get ready to digest.
Here’s a good exercise that you can do at home: grab a little piece of something. It could be a piece of fruit, or it could be a nut. It could even be a little piece of chocolate.
The first thing about paying attention is thinking about these choices that you have, that you can give yourself. Think about what you’re drawn to first, and why.
Why are we drawn to certain choices? Then start looking at the food you chose and pretend for a moment that you’ve never seen it before. See if you notice anything different that you hadn’t noticed before and have your own experience with what you are exploring.
The next step is to bring it to our nostrils and take a sniff. See if you notice anything new about the way it smells. When I did this experiment with a pecan, I could definitely smell pecan pie. It was like having the whole pie in the little nut.
Then the next step is to put it in our mouths and not chew quite yet. When you put it in your mouth, you can notice how saliva just kind of starts gushing out, and it’s actually a little uncomfortable to hold something in our mouths and not chew because we are trained to chew. We put it in our mouths, we start chewing. Just holding it for a second and tasting it as a whole. Do you sense the taste of it when it’s in your mouth, “unprocessed”? What’s happening? What is your body wanting to do automatically that you get to notice for the first time?
Then you can chew. You can see where in your tongue, or where in your mouth you taste the flavor the most. What is the texture? Do you chew enough so that it changes texture completely before you swallow? So those are interesting things to just know about your food, yourself and how you have been eating.
Then as you swallow, you can focus on the sensation of that food first being separate, being this pecan, and then at what point does the pecan become Thais. At what point does this food become you? It would probably be difficult to do this at every meal with every bite. The notion is to do this every once in a while. It’s just a way to check in and look at how fast are we eating, how much are we paying attention to the choices that we’re making. And then raising awareness to the fact that everything we put in our bodies becomes us.
So that is a little bit about mindful eating. Try it out and let me know what you discover!