When was the last time you actually sat down and ate a meal? I’m talking slowly and deliberately, taking your time to enjoy every morsel that passed your lips? I can’t remember the last time I did this. For me, eating is always a rushed occasion. Many days will find me running around with barely a thought about food; but this practice never fails to get me into trouble because before I know it, it’s binge o’clock. It’s almost always after school pick-up that I find myself doing the pantry-to-fridge cha-cha, shovelling food in without really even tasting it. Even at dinner time, a time when the four of us make an effort to sit down to eat as a family, I’m more focused on getting my kids to eat than paying attention to what’s going into my own gob. As the spoonfuls go in, my greatest hits of “use your fork” and “sit down on your chair and eat properly” and my personal fave, “just EATTTTTTT!!!!!” roll out. The plate is clean, but I hardly even remember eating it, let alone tasting it.
Even when I’m alone, I’m always distracted when I eat – scrolling through my phone, taking bites between loads of washing or with one hand on the keyboard and one on my sandwich. It’s not good. How did we get to a point where one of life’s greatest pleasures became something so….mindless?
Enter Mindful Eating. I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before, but stick with me. It really can be a game-changer, because FOOD is GOOD and should be a pleasurable experience, not something to be neglected or abused. The only feeling we should be focusing on when we eat is how fab our food looks, smells and tastes, not bombarded with the endless chatter of to-do lists or worse, calorie calculations.
It’s almost always after school pick-up that I find myself doing the pantry-to-fridge cha-cha, shovelling food in without really even tasting it.
Cassandra Bodzak is the author of the book, Eat with Intention, and she has some easy tips for those of us who want to give Mindful Eating a go. They’re not crazy, just good common sense ideas that will hopefully bring us to a place where food is loved, respected and enjoyed. As it should be.
Eat with gratitude: There’s something to be said for the old practice of saying a prayer before eating. It doesn’t have to be religious, even a shout out of acknowledgement to the universe can get your mind more focused on what you’re actually about to do – chow down. Cassandra suggests sitting quietly before that first bite for a few minutes and asking yourself “whether you’re eating from a place of self-love.” Think positively and calmly about the food you’re about to eat and leave any body negativity and stress at the door. They’re party poopers.
NO distractions: Trickier said than done, but essential. No TV, newspaper, work, magazine or phones will help you view your meal as an activity in itself, instead of another form of multi-tasking. Enjoy the flavours and smells of your food while focusing on all the vitamins and minerals you’re supplying your body with.
Listen to what your body wants: Cassandra recommends really tuning into your body to make the best decisions when it comes to giving it the energy and stamina it requires. “Sometimes, you will hear your body telling you that it wants the smoothie, other times you will hear that it wants a more substantial breakfast,” she says. Just the simple act of thinking about your food before preparing it can make a massive difference and leave you feeling more positive about what you’re about to eat.
Chew Chew Chew: Until I tried this, I never realised that I don’t actually chew my food properly. Ever. Turns out that a couple of clamps down on your steak just isn’t enough, even if your throat is used to dinosaur-sized chunks like mine. Cassandra recommends chewing your food for twice as long as you usually would, allowing yourself to really enjoy the taste of what’s in your mouth. And she brings up a good point; “Your stomach doesn’t have teeth, so chewing your food well will improve digestion and keep you in the present moment with the delicious meal in front of you.” Seriously, why the rush? Like all good stuff, shouldn’t we be wanting it to last as long as possible? (Insert cheeky wink)
Give your fork a break: We’ve all heard this before, but have you ever actually tried it? Setting down your fork in between bites pairs perfectly with tip three, lots of chewing. They’re just like wine and cheese; they belong together. Seriously, with every bite, try placing your fork down on your plate and concentrate on all the flavours you’re getting from your food while chewing properly. It does take some practise, but if you can slow every moment of your meal down, you’ll find yourself enjoying it way more than if you were just to woof it down without a second thought.
Mindful Eating isn’t hard, it’s just about viewing your meal times and ultimately, your relationship with food, as important and giving it the love and care it deserves. We do it for sex and work and time with our kids, so why wouldn’t we do it with food? Love it, enjoy it and just give it some good old fashioned attention. Your mind – and body – will be grateful.