Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mindful Eating

Editors note: This is a guest post by Jules Clancy fromstonesoup.

Seeing only engages one of our senses. But food is a powerful sensual experience that engages all your senses. No wonder you are seduced by the sight, smell, taste, and touch of it. (Plus, you can hear the sound of food as you chew it.)

Recently, my wife and I walked through an outside mall containing several restaurants. We checked out several menus and were undecided until we stepped into one restaurant that was filled the most delicious aroma. “Let’s eat here,” I said instantly.

For this meditation, practice being mindful of all your senses. 1) Use your sight to look at food’s color and shape with full concentration. 2) Smell a food’s aroma—both cooked and uncooked. Can you tell when something is fresh or spoiled? 3) Taste a food by letting it linger in your mouth for a long time, chewing it and extracting all the flavor it has to give you. Do you like (or dislike) it? 4) Experience details of a food’s texture and sound as you chew. 5) Hear food as you crunch, munch, and pop it in your mouth.

Mindful eating has the powerful potential to transform people’s relationship to food and eating, to improve overall health, body image, relationships and self-esteem. Mindful eating involves many components such as:
* learning to make choices in beginning or ending a meal based on awareness of hunger and satiety cues;
* learning to identify personal triggers for mindless eating, such as emotions, social pressures, or certain              foods;
* valuing quality over quantity of what you’re eating;
* appreciating the sensual, as well as the nourishing, capacity of food;
* feeling deep gratitude that may come from appreciating and experiencing food


Reduced over eating. It’s been a while now since I went to bed feeling bloated and over stuffed. Which is great in itself but also means that my ‘muffin top’ is pretty much gone when I wear my favorite jeans.

Increased enjoyment of food. As a food scientist, I’ve always considered myself a big fan of eating. Now that I’m on the path to mastering the art of mindful eating, I am finding a new found respect for food and am gaining far more pleasure from meal times.

Improved digestion. Digestion begins in the mouth with the action of saliva. If food isn’t chewed properly it means that there’s more work for the rest of your digestion system. I may be imagining this, but I think I’ve also noticed I have less gas now that I’m eating mindfully.

Being satisfied with less. Linked with reduced over eating, the real benefit here is being able to trust yourself to feel satisfied after one or two squares of chocolate so there is no temptation to scoff the whole block. Suddenly there’s no need to deny yourself the occasional treat which makes for a far healthier relationship with food.
Ready to change the way you interact with food?

How to master the art of mindful eating:

1. Start small. Like all new habits, it’s best to set realistic expectations. Choose one meal or snack each day and commit to focusing on mindful eating at that time.

2. Stop multitasking at meal times.

3. Only eat at the table. No more snacking on the run.

4. Appreciate the appearance. Taking the time to notice sets the scene for mindful eating.

5. Focus on each mouthful. Think about the flavour, texture and even the sound of the food in your mouth. Focus on how much you like, or dislike these sensations.

6. Chew.

7.Use cutlery and put it down between mouthfuls.

8. Talk and share. One of the joys of eating is sharing a meal with loved ones.

9. Go for quality not quantity. By choosing smaller amounts of the best food you can afford, you will not only enjoy it more, you’re far more likely to be satisfied without having to over eat.

10. Make time to prepare your own meals, preferably from fresh ingredients.

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