You’re rushing to get the kids ready for school, the dog hasn’t been fed yet, and the boss just texted asking you to come in 20 minutes early. Sound familiar? When that “urgent” email from a client pops up (at 8:00 pm!) or your sister texts needing to know about the weekend plans, you stop what you’re doing in the moment so you can answer. In our fast-paced culture of smart phones and other devices, it can feel as if we always have to be “on” so we can immediately react to anything. The problem is that, when we do this, we’re not living in the moment.
A great way to practice mindful living is to focus on things you do habitually, something as simple as brushing your teeth, for example, but one of the best ways of being mindful, is at meal time.
So what is eating mindfully exactly? It’s simply putting a little more thought into why, what, and how you eat. Are you hungry right now? Do you need that donut from the break room when your healthy lunch is waiting in the fridge? Do you really need to sit with your food at your desk and answer emails at lunch? The guy from Sales really can’t wait 30 minutes for last year’s projections?
There are many benefits to mindful eating. You’ll find that, not only will you experience improved digestion and eat less, but you will enjoy your food a lot more and likely shed some unwanted pounds in the process.
Here are some easy ways to not only make mealtime more sacred, but to get more enjoyment out of refueling your body:
Ask a Few Questions
Whenever faced with food choices, especially snacks on the go, ask yourself if you really need to eat it. Are you hungry or simply tired, stressed, or bored. The answer may surprise you. Many of us, me included, often eat for reasons other than hunger. Even thirst can be confused with hunger when you’re not in tune with your body’s signals. Start by assessing whether you’re actually hungry or not before making those important food choices.
We all do it. You’re in a hurry to pick up the kids from soccer, and you think, “I’ll just grab something along the way and scarf it down in the car so I won’t be late.” The problem with this is that we generally make bad food choices when we’re in a rush, and we mindlessly shovel in the food while thinking and doing other activities (which, in the case of driving and eating, is not only unwise from a mindfulness standpoint, but dangerous as well!)
When planning your day’s activities, include your meals. Schedule time when you and your family can sit down together. When it’s time to eat, put down the smartphone and close the laptop, turn off the TV, and focus on the food.
Make it Special
Often we take food for granted, thinking of it as just one more thing to check off our to-do list; but mealtime should be an occasion. Never eat standing up or on the go, and NEVER in front of the computer or television. Even when you’re dining for one, make yourself comfortable, set the table, and bring out the pretty plates and utensils. It sounds silly, but making it special can help direct your focus to the present moment, rather than just shoveling food into your mouth as you race to your next appointment. Food is a gift and should be held sacred; respect this time that you’ve set aside to refuel and take care of your body.
Take Your Time
Take your time and enjoy the meal on your plate. Take a moment to really look at it. How does it smell? How does it taste? Take smaller bites and really move the food around your palette as you chew. Chew each bite a minimum of 30 times before taking another mouthful. Alternate bites of food with sips of water. Put your fork down between bites; many of us already have the next fork or spoon preloaded waiting to go before we’ve even tasted the food that’s still in our mouths!
Lastly, it’s important to feel a sense of gratitude for the food on your plate, and to reflect upon how it arrived there. We’re blessed in our modern culture with an abundance of food choices whenever we want them. Want a mango in December? No problem. Somewhere in the world, there’s a crop that’s been shipped to your grocer.So, reflect upon all the elements it took to grow that food and how it got to you: The sun, the soil, the water it took to bring it from seed to fruit, and how far it travelled to end up on your plate. If you eat meat, think about the animal who gave its life and all the resources it took to raise and care for that animal. Who cooked it? Having reverence, respect and connection with our food is key to living an awakened life.
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