Three hamburgers, countless tortilla chips, and eleventy-million beers later, I know how you feel. Sometimes that third day of weekend "Sure, let's eat pizza for breakfast!" is just enough to tip you into too-much-vacation territory. This is a state of being so overindulged, you begin to crave bulgur and the crisp snap of asparagus. You have overdone it. But there's nothing like hitting rock bottom to get you swimming back towards the surface.
What is mindful eating? It's applying the principles of mindfulness--bringing purposeful attention to the moment--to our daily, often automatic act of eating. Psychology Today defines it as, "deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside and outside yourself - in your body, heart and mind - and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment."
The glory of mindful eating is tuning into ourselves and food: the sights, smells, and flavors of what we're eating, as well as our sensations in the act of eating it. And why do this, you might be wondering? Well, despite the increased pleasure that can occur from actually enjoying our food as we eat it, if we bring mindfulness to our consumption, then we aren't eating our feelings, our stress, our boredom. We are eating food, glorious food. Here are seven simple ways to get started:
- Start small. Listen, I can so appreciate the appeal of radical change. But going from a hot dog-fueled weekend to a raw foods detox is probably not the surest way to lasting change. There are seven tips here for you to mull over and think about, but why not start with just one of them today?
- Turn off the television. If you're anything like me, this is the hardest tip of all. Eating in front of the television can feel so relaxing. But when you're watching cutie pie Nate Berkus, you're not paying attention to your body's cues of satiety or the pleasure of the act of eating. Try eating your next meal without distractions.
- Take your time. Our internal messaging system is more like the USPS than IM. It can take up to 25 minutes for your body to send your brain the message that it's full. If we tear through our meals, we get to "full" and zoom right past to "overstuffed" and "oh-my-god-I-need-to-lie-down." Slow down to get the message in time.
- Listen to what your body wants. At first, some people take this as permission to eat peanut M&M's for dinner, but you have to listen to what your body wants, not your mind. After years of seeing certain foods as "bad" or "off-limits," the mind wants to go hog wild. The body, though, might want to eat wet slices of watermelon on hot days or a big salad for lunch with energy-encouraging protein. Tune into that quieter voice to hear what it craves.
- Get involved. Awareness of our eating can begin before we even sit down at the table. Get involved in the creation of your food by cooking for yourself instead of picking up take-out. If you're a novice cook, start with something super easy, like a gorgeous sandwich. Just the act of selecting the avocado and sprouts at the market and piling them high on whole grain bread gets you involved in the process of sustaining yourself.
- Make it a meditation. Walking meditation brings attention to, among other things, the sensation of your feet striking the ground. Make eating a meditation. Focus your attention on the colors on your place, lifting the fork to your mouth, the crunch of chewing, the delight of the flavors in your mouth.
- Eat together. This isn't realistic for every meal every day, but it's a state of mind. Eat as if you were with others. Sit at the table. Put your fork down between bites. Breathe. And if you are so lucky to get to enjoy breaking bread with others, enjoy the moment. Focus on the conversation as much as you focus on your food. Make it a feast for all your senses.
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