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  • Pat­rina M. Clark, SPHR, HCS, RACC
    Speaker | Trainer | Con­sul­tant | Coach
31 Oct

Mind­ful Eat­ing: Four Tips for Mak­ing Every Bite Count

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Face it, food is an impor­tant part of cul­tures around the world. In Texas, where I’m from, we start talk­ing about the next meal before we’re fin­ished eat­ing the one in front of us. We love to eat!

It’s been said that we should eat to live, not live to eat. While I gen­er­ally agree with this advice, I’m also a huge fan of fully liv­ing and lov­ing the moment we’re in. The chal­lenge can some­times be actu­ally being fully present — actu­ally pay­ing com­plete atten­tion to the moment — what we’re doing, how we’re feel­ing. And, yes, what and how much we’re eating.

If you’re like me, you’ve prob­a­bly sat down to eat some­thing while watch­ing TV or mon­i­tor­ing Face­book on your phone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to eat some­thing while I’m mul­ti­task­ing and been totally shocked when I stick my hand in the bag and find noth­ing but crumbs.

One way to make sure we savor every moment of that tasty morsel is to really be fully present in the moment, to be mind­ful. When we are mind­ful, we are giv­ing our com­plete atten­tion to the present moment, not allow­ing our­selves to be dis­tracted by the many things clam­or­ing for our attention.

When we mind­fully eat, we are actu­ally tak­ing the time to fully enjoy the food before, dur­ing and after we con­sume it. We are very inten­tional about what and how much we’re eating.

As Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., a pedi­a­tri­cian and Zen teacher in Ore­gon, wrote for The Cen­ter for Mind­ful Eat­ing:

When we eat uncon­sciously, we eas­ily eat too much and we can be left feel­ing unhappy with our­selves. When we eat uncon­sciously, we don’t really taste or enjoy our food, and we can be left feel­ing unsatisfied. Mind­ful pauses help us pace our eat­ing. Paus­ing and pac­ing help us unfold a richer expe­ri­ence with food, restor­ing joy and sat­is­fac­tion to our expe­ri­ence of eating.”

Slow­ing down and truly savor­ing our food can be a chal­lenge in today’s busy world. It’s hard to have a mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ence with your tuna salad on rye when you’ve only got an hour to eat lunch, go to the bank, and put gas in the car before get­ting back to work.

The fol­low­ing four ideas can help you be more inten­tional about your eat­ing. And, a mind­ful­ness eat­ing prac­tice is a great start to cre­at­ing a broader mind­ful­ness prac­tice that car­ries over into other areas of your life.

1) Make every bite as won­der­ful as the first. Think about the last time you ate some­thing that just rocked your world. That first bite was life chang­ing in that moment. For me, this usu­ally hap­pens with dessert. Too often, though, shortly after that first bite, we for­get about what we’re eat­ing and start mul­ti­task­ing — which these days usu­ally means check­ing Face­book or text mes­sag­ing. Try this for the next 24 hours, every time you are about to eat or drink some­thing, take time to really observe its char­ac­ter­is­tics — color, tex­ture, smell. With that first bite, notice how it feels in your mouth — taste, tem­per­a­ture, tex­ture. Stay this present for every bite, really engag­ing all of your senses in the eat­ing experience.

2) Play the quiet game. For at least one meal a day, turn off every­thing — no tele­vi­sion, no iPhone, Galaxy. Sit qui­etly with your food – just you, your food, and the expe­ri­ence of eat­ing. For fun, you can engage oth­ers in the quiet game, where no one talks once the meal is served until every­one is com­pletely fin­ished. By elim­i­nat­ing dis­trac­tions, your mind is free to focus on the food we’re eating.

3) Make It your­self. In our fast-​paced soci­ety, we often opt for con­ve­nience as a means for self-​preservation. There sim­ply don’t feel like enough hours in the day. Occa­sion­ally grab­bing quick food is okay, but try to pre­pare your own meals as often as pos­si­ble. The act of cook­ing – chop­ping and sautee­ing veg­eta­bles, mea­sur­ing ingre­di­ents, even wash­ing the dishes – can be a form of med­i­ta­tion. And, you know exactly what’s in the food you’ve prepared.

4) Con­sider the source. Do you know where the food in front of you came from? What jour­ney did each com­po­nent travel to reach you? How many hands were involved in the grow­ing, har­vest­ing, pro­cess­ing, deliv­er­ing, and cook­ing of the meal? Each plate of food is a mir­a­cle of coop­er­a­tion. Acknowl­edge this mir­a­cle of coop­er­a­tion and choose to eat foods for which you can trace the jour­ney (organic, locally grown is best).

If you need a bit more incen­tive to develop a mind­ful­ness eat­ing prac­tice, its been proven to cause weight loss. One research study showed a reduc­tion of 297 calo­ries per day and an aver­age weight loss of found pounds over six weeks.

Mind­ful eat­ing is a sign of respect — for the food you are eat­ing and for your body, heart, and mind. So, respect yourself.

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