Next time you sit down to eat, we’d like you to try the following exercise. Take some deep breaths and notice the smell of your meal. What does it remind you of? Is there steam coming from your food? What does it feel like? Next, take a forkful of food, then put the fork down. Don’t talk, chew slowly, and think about what the food feels and tastes like in your mouth, and as you swallow. Pause for one minute after you have finished swallowing, and examine how you feel. Did the food make you feel a certain way? Was it good? Take one more forkful, and repeat the process. See if you can do this throughout the course of your meal. What’s the point, you ask? Here it is: conscious eating, also called mindful eating, can be a way for you to take back control of your eating, while improving your health and serenity at the same time.
So what is conscious eating? It is being mindful of the food you eat, in each moment. From the steps you take to purchase and prepare your food, to time at the table enjoying what you have made, it is all about being in the moment, being aware, and being grateful for the healthy things you give to your body. In today’s busy world, many people have gotten into the habit of just putting food in their mouths, often on the go, eating too quickly, and ignoring what and how much they are eating. Conscious eating allows you to attend to everything – the work with your hands as you prepare food, the odor, texture, smell, temperature, and taste. You notice your feelings about what you are eating, and register how your body and brain respond to the things you consume.
There are lots of benefits to conscious eating. Here are six of our favorites:
- When you practice conscious eating, you begin to learn the difference between true hunger, cravings, and times you eat for emotional reasons. You will begin to eat only when you are truly hungry, and as your awareness of food intake grows, you will stop when you notice you are full.
- If you really attend to taste when you eat, you will begin to notice that healthy food tastes better than unhealthy food. You will also become aware of how your body responds to both types of food, and you will find your body feels best when you make healthy food choices.
- You will begin to eat less when you socialize, as you will not eat just because there are bowls of snacks on every table. You will be able to choose what you want to eat based on your awareness in the moment, and you will begin to avoid unhealthy foods.
- Over time, you will start to examine your relationship to food. You will begin to think about why you eat. If you find you eat when you are tired, sad, stressed, or lonely, you will be able to make changes around that so you only eat when you are truly hungry.
- As you practice conscious eating, you will become aware of how the food choices you make impact your mood, energy, and endurance throughout the day. The more aware you are of how your body responds to food, the better you will become at making healthy choices.
- Conscious eating allows you time each day to fully attend to yourself, your thoughts, and your feeling. It is a form of meditation, and with practice will be a time of peace that you look forward to each day. And, as you experience the serenity of mindfulness, you may begin to incorporate it into other parts of your life.
Conscious eating is a process that takes time. If you have spent your entire life eating a certain way, it can be hard to change. The good news is that you can change. Start small, and focus for as long as you can on what you are eating and how it makes you feel. If your mind wanders, that’s okay. Bring your attention back to the food before you and try again. With persistence, practice, and focus, you will find yourself making progress toward mindfulness one step at a time.
Next time we will talk about emotional eating and our relationship to food, and we will give suggestions on ways to avoid using food as emotional comfort.
Learn To Eat Clean And Healthy Program
This program will walk you through the best practices for healthy food shopping, making better meal choices and even stocking a pantry that will set you on a course for success in your everyday eating. Find out more!