What is Mindful Eating?
When we practice mindfulness during mealtimes, we are practicing awareness of how we choose to take care of ourselves. Purchase, prepare, and consume your food with a purpose. But what does this really mean? Read on to find out.
Begin to Change the Way You See Your Food
In a world filled with hectic schedules and the convenience of the modern-day drive-thru, it’s all too easy to forget about where our food comes from and how it affects us daily. Whether we purchase food at the grocery store or order take-out every night, if we are not focused on feeding our body mind and soul, we may fail to see our meals as more than just a means to an end.
When I first began incorporating mindfulness into my daily routine and mealtimes, I found a new way to relate to my food. Soon, I began enjoying weekly trips to the grocery store in search of healthy and inspiring ingredients. I also rediscovered my passion for cooking and began preparing new and exotic dishes I had never thought I was capable of cooking such as Chickpea Curry and Burrito Bowls.
I found that I enjoyed my meals more. In fact, the whole affair of buying groceries, cooking, and then serving food to myself felt a bit ceremonious, even sacred to me.
Practice Gratitude for Your Meals
As I researched mindfulness and meditation, I recognized the recurring theme of gratitude in all the books I came across. Growing up, my family and I always gave thanks for our food. Grace, as my mother would call it, always concluded the same way. “Thank you for this food and bless the hands that made it,” I remember feeling so proud on those nights when I would make the meals for my family, thinking their words of thanks were for me and those blessed hands were my own.
But I hadn’t formally prayed in years. Nor did I really want to. Instead, I came up with my own form of communion. I began sitting with my meal, admiring the dish as if it were a work of art.
I thought of all the times I had eaten out at restaurants with friends and family and how we would drool over each incredibly decadent dish that was served. So what if I wasn’t in a 5-star restaurant?, I asked myself. I soon realized I could still look at my meals with the same awe and gratitude while sitting at the kitchen table.
The first night I tried practicing gratitude, I initially felt a bit strange. Awkwardly, I propped myself up in my chair as if I was about to give a lecture, closed my eyes, and placed my hands over my plate.
Remembering my childhood prayers, I began to imagine everyone involved in the process of getting this food on my table. I thought of the farmers I had met in Peru and Indonesia who worked tirelessly to grow and cultivate the foods I most enjoyed such as mango, quinoa, and avocados. I then thought of the grocers and the drivers who made it possible for me to eat these foods from faraway lands.
I gave thanks for my food and I closed my eyes upon taking my first bite. As I chewed, I tasted the flavors of the meal in a whole new way. In an instant, the dynamic flavor profile of the meal was revealed to me, much like colors on a painting palette. Salty, sweet, umami, and everything in between. The textures stood out too. The creaminess of the peanut sauce blended perfectly with the crunchiness of the snap peas and carrots.
Suddenly, I understood what had been missing from my mealtimes. By giving thanks and choosing to consciously consume my meal, I had accepted full responsibility for what I was putting into my body and how these decisions affected my health.
Making a Change
Through this process, I discovered a better way to eat. I realized that I didn’t have to worry about who would get the last spring roll or try to scarf down my meal down in under 10 minutes (well, most of the time). What’s more, I no longer felt guilty about the things I chose to eat. Instead, I chose to enjoy my meals and the company of the people I ate it with.
How to Begin
Becoming a mindful consumer starts with your next meal. If you’re not sure where to begin, imagine for a moment that you didn’t know if or when you would eat your next meal. How might your views toward your food change? How might your views toward your body change?