Food plays such an important role in our lives. It is our source of life. It is what sustains us, helps to heal us and is the very building blocks our cells are made of.
Food is what we plan and divide our days by. Food is a place of connection for us, a link to the past and a way of breaking down the barriers that languages and social conventions create.
As a nutritionist, I see food as a fuel source but as a poet, I see it as a thread that runs throughout our lives, rippling and twisting as it enriches and nourishes us.
Food is so intertwined with our everyday lives that over time we can forget its significance and true joy. Eating is something we do at least three times a day and yet, a lot of us seem to struggle with it.
Most of us are very good at eating, but what we aren’t so good at is mindful eating.
We eat meals on the go. We shovel our food down to get the next thing done. We eat in front of the TV, at the kitchen bench as we scroll through our phone, and at our desks while we continue to do our work.
It’s no surprise then that we feel hungry often, terribly sluggish and crave unhealthy foods to satisfy our appetites.
Most of us have forgotten the way our ancestors lived.
The way they spent their days scouring the land looking for their next meal. The way they gathered together and pooled their resources. The way they cooked over an open fire and ate in the flickering glow of its warmth.
How they sang songs and told stories and stayed beside that fire long after their meal was finished.
Nowadays, we are always in a hurry, our lives leave no room for such frivolity.
I think we need to make mealtimes an event again.
We need to return to that place of respect and appreciation for our food. We need to just slow down and enjoy life instead of always rushing on to the next thing. We need to make eating about more than just getting fuel.
Mindful eating is a celebration of food. An act of gratitude, an attempt at forging a connection and a search for deeper satisfaction.
It’s about being present while we eat for the sake of our health, our relationships and our general well-being.
5 simple ways to practice mindful eating
Eat with others
When we have meals with other people we are more likely to make a bigger effort with our food and not just butter some toast and call it dinner.
We tend to take time to prepare something special or at least something that resembles a full meal when we have company.
And we also tend to take our time eating the meal. Conversations meander, glasses are clinked together, stories are shared and laughter flows.
This coming together over a meal leaves us feeling not only satisfied with the food on our plates but also with the wonderful relationships we have in our lives.
Take the time to appreciate what you are eating. Put down your fork between mouthfuls and chew your food more.
When we eat slowly, we will often feel fuller sooner and therefore, consume less overall. Something I’ve learnt is that I am generally full long before I stop eating. If you were raised to finish whatever is on your plate then you might keep eating even past the point of feeling full.
Eating slowly and chewing your food properly allows your body to digest the food easier and helps you to finish eating when you have had enough.
Eat without distractions.
Put your phone away. Turn the TV off. Stop reading the newspaper.
Instead, try lighting a candle, turning on some soft music and focusing on just enjoying your meal. One of the best ways to be present while eating is to actually BE present rather than distracted by social media or the daily news.
An upside to this is that you’ll probably find your food more appealing and more satisfying if you’ve actually been present while eating it.
Eat good food
Try to eat more fruit and vegetables. Try to eat more food that is fresh, whole and as unprocessed as possible.
Make an effort with the meals you prepare. Mix it up and try new recipes, cook every recipe in single cookbook, try a cooking challenge. Make your mealtimes more exciting and pleasurable by widening your cooking horizons.
Buy good quality food if you can afford it. Shop at local farmer’s markets and make friends with the people who actually care about the produce they are selling.
Say grace before meals
My dad has a grace he learnt at boarding school and he recited it every single dinnertime growing up. I know it word for word and although at the time it felt like an annoying impediment between me and the food before me, now I can appreciate its value.
Even if you aren’t religious saying grace is a lovely practice. It’s as simple as taking a moment to appreciate everyone who took part in producing the food on your plate. Expressing gratitude for their hard work, the precious resources that went into making your meal and the blessing it is that we have food to eat.
The truth is, with our modern lifestyles we can be a bit hopeless when it comes to mindful eating.
We need to get better at slowing down and making our mealtimes special again. Whether that be trying a new recipe, lighting a candle or inviting friends over to join us.
Food is about more than just fuel. It’s a celebration of friendship, culture and satisfaction.
If you are looking for more ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life, then check out my 7 days of mindful living challenge.
If you want to add more rest, contentment and satisfaction into your life then this is where you should start. In just a week you’ll learn 7 different areas where mindfulness and intentional living can change your life.
Mindful eating is just the beginning!
Do you struggle with mindful eating?