Like many women in my generation, I’ve had a challenging relationship with food throughout my life. In my teens, I was always on a new diet. Then, after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, I had to eliminate my favorite foods from my diet and would feel a lot of guilt whenever I slipped up.
Developing a healthy relationship with food has been a journey, and I’m not alone: In our fast-paced lifestyle, it’s easy to overlook our true needs and cravings. Add the “diet” (a.k.a. “shame”) industry, addictive processed foods, and continual competing nutritional advice from doctors, and it’s no wonder so many people in the West have issues with food.
When I first moved to L.A., I spent a lot of time eating at working at Cafe Gratitude, a restaurant where the water bottles have positive words written on them and menu items are named as affirmations. That restaurant shifted how I eat, encouraging me to bless my food, enjoy my food, and know where and how it was grown. It was here I first practiced mindful eating.
As I practiced more conscious eating, my digestion improved. I was enjoying my food more. I felt fuller sooner and stayed satiated. Studies have shown that mindful eating can lead to weight loss, decrease binge eating, and decrease anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Here’s what I find makes a meal mindful:
Close that laptop, turn off Hulu, and put down your phone. The more attention you give your food, the more you’ll enjoy it.
Listen to your gut
By listening to your body’s internal cues, identifying triggers for mindless eating, you’ll be able to discern when you are really hungry and when you are on automatic pilot. You’ll be able to determine which foods are medicine, and which are poison.
But be a little cautious here: try to decipher what cravings are coming from your addictions (or sugar-happy microbiome) and what your true hunger and intuition is saying.
Observe your patterns
Watch yourself when you reach for food. Are you hungry or are you anxious and want to ground yourself? Are you thinking about what you’ll eat next while you’re still eating your meal? Become aware of the emotions which arise before, during, and after you eat. By observing your patterns and triggers with food, you’ll reduce their power over you.
Use all of your senses to explore your food. Look at the colors and textures, smell the aromas, and listen to the sounds of your food. How does it feel to eat? Employ all your senses and watch how your pleasure increases with each bite.
Slow down and get present
Take your time to savor each bite. Chew your food thoroughly, and savor the flavors and textures.
Bless your food with gratitude
Giving thanks is a time-honored practice that you can do before every meal. Take a moment before your meal to appreciate the food in front of you and the effort it took to prepare it. Your gratitude will be as nourishing as the food.
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