Staying present is much easier for me to do when I’m physically active. The exact opposite is true in regard to when I’m eating. I often power through meal and snack times standing up—especially when I’m working from home and attempting to squeeze in a couple of bites between Zoom meetings, walking the dog and frantically typing on the computer trying to meet my next deadline.
I’ll be the first to admit that this sort of behavioral pattern doesn’t feel like nourishment. The joy of preparing and consuming food is greatly diminished. Nor is it a great example for my tween daughter in terms of self-care. Thankfully, I’m currently working on getting certified as a mindfulness practitioner, and one of the big takeaways from one of the recent lesson modules was the importance of intentionally redirecting attention when we start to notice our consciousness “tuning out” from the present moment.
Like the instructor astutely stated, “the more we learn about mindfulness, the more we can use it as a tool to improve our relationship to food.” For me, this means pausing to really appreciate the allergen-friendly smoothies, salads and grain bowls I make many days in order to photograph for new recipes I’ve developed or to post on social media—then devour in merely a few minutes before rushing on to the next task. Other suggestions for how to cultivate awareness when it’s time to dine include:
- Eat without doing anything else including watching tv, working or driving.
- Pay attention to any thoughts, feelings or sensations that are present. Also notice any physical sensations of hunger (a.k.a: how hungry you are).
- Observe the food in front of you. How does it smell? How does it look? What are the different colors?
- Take time to really chew each bite. Notice its texture, taste and flavor. (Don’t do anything else while chewing; simply pay attention.)
- Rest between bites and take a moment to notice any sensations or thoughts that start to flow.
- Expand the field of your awareness to the whole body. Do you have any discomfort? Tense facial expressions? Are you comfortable at the table you’re seated at or in the posture you’re sitting in?
These tips are meant to be words of encouragement rather than prescriptive. None of us will do each of these steps every time. Yet gradually, if we train ourselves to experience eating on a more holistic level, we’ll improve our perception of fullness—thanks to employing each of the five senses at mealtimes.
Continue to walk toward wellness together this Wednesday!