When was the last time you really tasted your food? Not just trying to savor scraps as you shovel grub down your gullet, but truly experiencing your food?
The bright colors, the mouthwatering smell, the freshly harvested taste; eating should be a celebrated task, not just one of survival. Observing how food looks, feels and tastes going into your body is a simple yet often overlooked practice known as “mindful eating,” and it can change the way you eat. This isn’t some crazy diet or new fad, but rather a way to become present in the moment to truly appreciate the pleasure of eating.
For those new to this concept, mindfulness is defined as the mental state achieved by “focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations” without judgment. When you take a second to become present, you may suddenly notice colors, sounds, sights and smells you might have otherwise overlooked. The same goes for nutrition. Noticing what foods your body is begging for and drawing awareness to what you are putting into your body is the key to mindful eating. Quality over quantity is the motto when practicing this process.
While it may sound time consuming, munching mindfully is completely reliant on your ability to become present. The quicker you are able to drop into the current moment, the faster you can start fully enjoying your meal.
Here are a few ways you can start eating with intention.
Listen to your body
If you listen, you may find that your body is always telling you what it wants. While choosing candy over carrots or ice cream over kale is gratifying in the short term, respecting your body’s dietary wishes will work wonders in the long run. When hunger creeps in, stop and identify what exactly your body is asking for. Are you searching for filler food like bread or are you on a crazed sugar hunt? This is your body desperately asking you to feed it and feed it fast, but that doesn’t mean it actually wants fats and sugars. Instead of succumbing to your cravings, try giving your body exactly what it needs. Hankering for sugar? Your body needs an energy boost. Try fruit and a protein-packed snack like cottage cheese for yogurt. Longing for something salty? This may be a hint that you are low in electrolytes or dehydrated. Try grabbing vitamin B-rich foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Learn more about what cravings mean.
Once you’ve made your food choice, next is to turn your attention inward by removing all distractions. Studies show that you eat more when distracted, and when you give your plate your full attention, you may actually eat less. So take your time to set a place to eat and focus your attention solely on the food in front of you. Turn off the television, put down the phone and commit to savoring your meal.
Turn on your senses
You may be surprised by how much more you experience by removing external stimuli. Without the hindrance of outside influence, you’re able to see, smell, touch and taste your food in a whole new way. Before picking up your utensils, look at your food. Admire the many colors, cuts and designs. Next, smell it and notice if you can identify each ingredient on your plate. Take a small bite and let it rest on your tongue for a few seconds. Allow yourself to feel the texture and taste of each bite that follows.
Slow down the pace
Slow and steady really does win the race when it comes to mindfulness. Rushing the process will only add to your inner chaos and take away from the quality of your meal experience. After observing your food, it’s time to feel it. Take small bites and chew each piece for at least 20 seconds, gently pushing your food from side to side and letting it sit on your tongue longer than usual. Notice the taste. Don’t judge the taste, just observe whether it appears more or less potent, juicy or savory than usual. Swallow and feel the food travel down your throat and into your stomach. Sit for a few seconds as you let your body receive and begin to digest the bite. Repeat these steps throughout your dining process. Take your time, and this should feel like a much-appreciated break in your day.
Mindful munching may not seem feasible in moments of extreme hunger or while on a tight schedule, but if you try to practice this process before at least one meal a day, you’ll find yourself consuming less and feeling more properly nourished. Eating was meant to be enjoyed whenever possible, and maintaining awareness of the task at hand will help alleviate stresses and bring an added calm and peace to your day (and your body).
Born and raised by the beach in Southern California, Valeri Spiwak lives and breathes West Coast culture and its surrounding artistic charm. Valeri, with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and a Minor in French, continuously seeks to explore the beautiful and obscure, and shares her adventures through captivating wordplay, clever writing and skillful copy.