Mindfulness and Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

Have you ever eaten something in a hurry, barely tasting what you put in your mouth, then look down and wonder where the food went?  You say to yourself,  "I couldn't have just eaten all that!"   Many times, typical fad diets fail to teach the psychological issue of overeating or unhealthy choices that people make with regards to losing weight and/or overcoming their chronic malnutrition choices.  People need to understand, why they are making  choices that lead to being overweight, or which makes them generally unhealthy and ultimately unhappy.  One of the many components of this psychological aspect is in mindfulness.

Mindfulness , defined as being in touch with and aware of the present moment, is a factor in eating healthy and watching your portions.   When people think of mindfulness they think it is all about meditation, needing more time in the day to fit in yet another thing.   Actually mindfulness can happen for moments at a time, at any time during the day, during any kind of activity you are performing, whether it is housecleaning, working on a project, reading, exercising or even eating!  Yes, you have probably already performed mindfulness in your ordinary task without even knowing it.   Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar and peace activist, is a great educator in mindfulness, teaching how to fit it in our modern American lives.     As Thich Nhat Hanh states, "A bonus of practicing mindful living, as many others practicing mindfulness throughout the centuries have found, is the sense of being more centered, more joyful, more at peace with yourself".    Maybe it is because I am in my 50's now, having experienced various emotional situations, I find myself looking for that joy and peace in my life, because it feeds my heart and soul, resulting in happiness.   Isn't happiness our ultimate goal in life?

Be mindful of the food choices for your body which is your one and only temple of your soul, is of utmost importance for your longevity.  The old saying, "you are what you eat", is really true.  Look around at our country and observe the abundance of "food like substances" in the grocery stores, gas stations, fast food.  These foods are just plain horrible for your body.  Yes, it is calories, but are those calories going to take care of your body and soul, give you nourishment and natural energy to get through your work day, give your brain the nutrition it needs to function properly and deal with stress, keep your gut, the second brain, healthy?  Be mindful as to why you are eating this food, is it a craving that will result in you feeling lousy, or is it out of  boredom?  Maybe you need to take a walk, throw clothes in the washer, walk to the water cooler, do something you won't regret.  Be mindful of the reasons why you are making these choices, looking at the long term results.  Ask yourself, will this food make me happy briefly then depressed after, will it cause my scale to go up next week, will it make me tired and lethargic, which will then make me go after more poor food choices?   If you can begin to think about your food as a necessity and not a pastime, your choices will improve over time.

When it comes to eating, embrace the energy of the food you are eating.  Foods that are processed with chemicals, preservatives, and sugar, and  animal proteins coming from unknown  warehoused sources, are foods that will not give you positive energy or nutrition.  Foods that comes from the earth, grown from the sun in rich soil, along with humanly treated and naturally fed animals, will give you  good energy resulting in the most nutritious product for your body.    When purchasing your food, be mindful of it's origin.
Now, how do you practice mindfulness?   First, try Thich Nhat Hanh's Apple Meditation as described in his book with shared author, Dr. Lilian Cheung,  "Savor, Mindful Eating, Mindful Life".    As he states after you wash the apple, you hold the apple in your hands and ask yourself, when I eat the apple am I really enjoying eating it?  Or, am I so preoccupied with other thoughts that I miss the delights that the apple offers me?    How about that candy bar purchased at the gas station, devouring it before you make it back to the car, or the drive through food eaten before you get back to the office!  How many times do you have mindless eating, performing other things, like watching TV, driving, working, walking?   Why can't we take 15 minutes out of our day to just sit down and eat our food, being mindful of the food we are eating, thinking about the flavors, where it came from, the texture in our mouth?   Try to make one night a week about cooking a wholesome meal made with love altogether as a family without interruptions of cell phones and TV, allowing conversation at the table, being mindful of the warmth this time brings to everyone that pitched in to help with dinner.

To practice the apple meditation mentioned above, take and look at the apple you are holding.  Smell the apple, take a bite of the apple, chew it slowly and chew several times, really taste the apple's flavor, think about the nourishment it will give you, the natural energy it gives you, continuing to be mindful during the whole process of eating the apple.   As Thich Nhat Hanh states, "the apple is a presence of life, it feeds our body, and if we eat it mindfully, it also feeds our soul and recharges our spirit".    Apply this to any healthy food you choose eat, as you practice this mindfulness you will enjoy your food even better, resulting in a trend of healthy eating.

Mindfulness is not only practiced during eating, it can be practiced during any daily task.  Take a moment at anytime of the day and be mindful of your task, our bodies need this type of nourishment as much as food, to be in the moment of our activity.   I liked one suggestion from Thich Nhat Hanh, when you hear the phone ring (or the cell phone "ding" with a text), don't react with an immediate response, instead take one minute to focus on your breathing, live in the present moment, as you inhale say to yourself, "I am breathing in" and when you exhale say to yourself, "I am breathing out".  Focus just on the breath.  If you can begin practicing this a couple times a day, you will find it makes you feel better, more focused and less stressed.    You may even find yourself taking more than a minute in the day, maybe 5 minutes. 

For more help on mindfulness, contact Beverly as this is part of her Health Coach services she provides.    You can also get more information from Thich Nhat Hanh's book referenced below. 

Reference:  "Savor, Mindful Eating, Mindful Life", by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung