The Importance of Mindful Eating

In a recent yoga teacher training session, my teacher said “learning is less about bringing in new information, and more about remembering your own wisdom that has been lost or buried beneath the layers.”

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This has stuck with me. Of course, there is a process of bringing in new information, and I resonate deeply with the experience of hearing something “new,” and it landing so calmly, like coming home after a long journey, that it feels like a veil has been lifted and I got access to something I had forgotten.

My first experience with mindful eating felt that way. It did not seem forced, foreign, inappropriate or silly, it immediately opened my heart and mind and I felt love, joy and nourishment before taking one bite.

Another reminder I got from my yoga teacher recently was “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Again, this rings true in many experiences in my life. I can hear the same thing over and over, but until I am ready to fully receive it and make the changes necessary to integrate it, it won’t fully land and I will not have access to it. Mindful eating has also shown up in my life in that way. While I know that it is something I want in my life, it is hard to remember it each day, and it is easier to stick with my path of least resistance which directs me towards large portions of food, not wanting to share, and scarfing down my meal while mindlessly engaging in something else that distracts me from the sensations in my body as I ingest.

Perhaps this is an experience you can relate to as well. How many articles and/or conversations have you witnessed about mindful eating? Have you been able to access the mindful eating skill when it is time to sit for a meal or have a snack? If yes, congratulations! If no, that’s okay too.

Sometimes the first time you hear something it simply becomes a seed planted and it takes time and attention to nurture it into a living and breathing organism that slowly shifts your habits over time. So, this blog post may serve as the seed being planted for you, and for others, perhaps you have seen and heard a lot about mindful eating and this will be the catalyst for you to fully receive the message you need to shift your eating habits. And maybe for others, mindful eating is already a habit and this will serve as a gentle reminder, and give another perspective into the already beautiful tapestry you have created in this field of study.

We can waste a lot of energy thinking about what to eat, what we should or should not eat, and what we did eat that we shouldn’t have. We spend time and money restricting ourselves, trying fad diets and then splurge our money and energy by indulging and feeling shame or judgment that we lacked the discipline to do what we said we would do. Your ideal “diet” is a lifestyle and it should be sustainable, balanced, and adjust day to day based on your energy output and your mind and body’s need for that day - that takes mindfulness as you must be in tune with what you are feeling, what you need, and what you want. It is not just about calories in and calories out, but rather the quality of the fuel you ingest and the quality of your thoughts and presence as you prepare your food, as you prepare to eat, as you eat, and once you feel nourished and complete.

Mindful eating or mindful nourishing (or soulful eating as eating psychology expert Marc David refers to it) is an ideal way to approach food. It is about experiencing and being present with the food you eat. It is the realization that no food is inherently good or bad, but rather your mindset and quantity matter more than anything. It reminds us to slow down and pay attention to each bite, each chew, the smells, the texture, the taste and the nourishment being delivered to every cell in your body. When we approach our food as medicine with a desire for nourishment and gratitude for its creation and presentation, you are more likely to stop when feeling full and move on to something engaging and nourishing away from the table afterward. Change the way you perceive your food and look for a sustainable lifestyle instead of a quick-fix. 

Want to incorporate mindful eating into your routine? Try this out:

At least one meal per day, engage in 5-3-1.

  • 5 – once your food is prepared and you are sitting ready to take in the beautiful nourishment, before taking a bite, take five deep belly breaths to calm your system down and ensure you have blood flow in your digestion system to fully ingest and deliver the nutrients to where they need to go.
  • 3 – look at your food and reflect on three things you are grateful for in this moment. Whether it is an expression of gratitude for the food, for your mind and body or for the environment you are in, this will ensure your mood is positive, which prepares your body to absorb as many nutrients as possible.
  • 1 – lean in and take one big sniff of your food. When you get access to more of your senses in any given situation, this supports your ability to be present. And, your sense of smell is 10,000 times stronger than your sense of taste. You will enjoy your food more, and be more in tune with your body’s sensations by slowing down and getting your system ready for ingestion.

 

Words by Marin McCue