Mindfulness: a state of active, open attention on the present. A way of observing thoughts from a distance without judgment, while being completely open to the now.
As promised, below you can find part 2 on creating a more mindful way of living + snippets from my recent Nutrition + Yoga Mindfulness workshop held at The Studio DC.
I'd like you all to ask yourself this: When is the last time you actually sat down in complete silence to eat a meal? How about a time where you actually took a bite out of food and thought about where it came from, or how it was produced? Where you ate out of pure physical hunger, instead of being tempted by the emotional gratification you thought that food would bring?
If you felt a pang of guilt when thinking about your answers to any of the above, you are not alone. In fact, you and your answers are actually pretty normal. Who would've guessed?
Living in our society today, its ever too easy to get caught up in our daily lives and take advantage of the accessibility of food. We no longer have to travel to the grocery store to get food, as its offered at just about any location we visit. Not only that, but we are constantly reminded of food as we go through our day. Scroll through blogs, and there's food adds on your side bar. Turn on the television, and your eyes are flooded with food and restaurant ads. Drive in your car, and the billboards for that juicy chicken sandwich + thirst quenching soda combo is awaiting.
Though the convenience of having food at our finger tips has made some tasks or trips easier to accomplish with a fueled tummy in mind (getting in extra early for that board meeting, or taking a road trip, for example), the majority of time this plastering of food 24/7 has caused us to develop this mindless view of food. As we pile on more to our plates (figuratively), we in turn do the same physically. More than ever, Americans are dealing with insurmountable levels of stress that create a roller coaster of emotions. With taking on more responsibilities, projects at work, the worry about feeding our families, and how we're paying off the debt from one or more school degrees, its no wonder we turn to food for comfort.
How 'bout that Ben & Jerry's?
I think its safe to say we've all had that ferocious attack at food in an effort to drown or enhance our emotions. Potato chips because I'm bored on the couch? Sure. Brownie sundae because I'm pissed that guy didn't ask me out? You bet. A whole box of cookies because I just finished a paper and I deserve it? GO FOR IT!
We've all been there. But now, how can we be done with that, or at least reduce its incidence?
The first step is recognizing our disconnect to food, and wanting to change. Once you conceptualize that, these seven steps are your next best friend.
7 Practices of a Mindful Eater
1. Honor the food.
*Be thankful that the food is there in front of you. If you're eating with others, try and have the conversation only focus on the food. Discuss how it was prepared, where the food came from, the farmer that grew it, etc. If we focus on rehashing our day at the dinner table, that could spark up emotions and leave us eating to nurture those feelings vs listening to our hunger cues.
2. Engage in all five senses. (sound, sight, smell, taste, touch)
*As you serve and eat, notice the sounds, colors, smells, and textures, sense of feel, as well as mind’s response to them.
3. Serve in modest portions.
*Choosing smaller portions helps you to avoid overeating, as well as being less wasteful of the household budget. Research shows that using smaller bowls+plates can also reduce intake while still leaving you feeling just as satisfied.
4. Savor small bites and chew thoroughly.
*Consciously choose smaller bites to help slow down your meal. This can also help improve digestion.
5. Eat slowly and avoid overeating.
*Research shows it takes 20 minutes to actually notice whether you are full or not. There’s a huge difference between feeling that you have had just about enough to eat and feeling as though you ate everything you could possibly fit in. Aim to feel 80% full.
6. Don’t skip meals.
*This is the #1 sure fire way to mindlessly munch at your next meal. When our hunger is uncontrollable, this is the time where our judgement for healthy foods falls to the wayside. Suddenly, that jumbo slice of pizza, cookies, and leftover pie suddenly looks like a fabulous idea.
7. Eat a plant-based diet.
*When mindful eaters look deeply at the meal they are about to eat, they see far beyond the rim of the plate. They see the dangerous toll that eating some types of animal foods can take on their bodies (i.e. increase their risk of many different types of cancer, while also promoting obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.) If environmental preservation is more of your thing, researchers at University of Chicago estimate that each American could do more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching from a Camry to a Prius.
And with that, I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors,
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” -Michael Pollan