Mindful Eating: How to Eat With Awareness

Jun 05, 2021

Mindful Eating: How to Eat With Awareness

Eating is something many of us are fortunate enough to do each day, and therefore, eating offers us a wonderful opportunity for mindfulness practice. Often times people do not eat because they are hungry or in need of nourishment, they eat because they are bored, upset, sad, uncomfortable, feeling various unsettling emotions, or simply seeking stimulation.

Eating in this emotional way can cause us to make poor dietary choices, and can also cause us to experience ill health. It can be very healing and insightful to begin the practice of mindful eating.

Mindful eating is simply eating with awareness of the process of eating—it is to be present while we eat, rather than being distracted by thought, television, or any other stimulus.

We may find this practice to be rather difficult. We may find that eating is used in a way to sedate us, we may find that we eat rather anxiously, we may find that we are unable to control our eating habits and instead guzzle our food without chewing it well, poorly combine foods, eat before our previous meal has digested, or overeat beyond our body’s comfortable limit.

As eating is so connected with our survival needs and emotions, to eat mindfully can bring awareness to many aspects of our behavior and psychology. It helps us gain control over our eating habits and frees us from the negative effects of distracted and anxious eating.

To eat mindfully, allow yourself to be truly present and attentive to each aspect of your meal—cooking, preparing, dishing, tasting, chewing, swallowing, digesting, etc. The essential point is simply to eat with awareness of the process of eating, and not to be distracted by the mind and its fantasies. It is to directly feel the present moment experience of eating, and not to think about it or anything else.

Practice:

  • Before even preparing or cooking your food, pause and take three deep breaths.
  • Say a brief prayer of gratitude. Thank the earth, thank the farmers, the soil, those that transported the food, the markets that sell it, the plants themselves for offering their life in this meal. See the entire universe supporting you in this meal, and be grateful.
  • Slow down and be present with your breath, there is no need to rush. Let the breath be an anchor for your attention throughout the process.
  • Prepare and cook your food with awareness. Be attentive to the sensory experience of cutting the different textures and substances of food, of the smell of the food, how it feels to move your hands.
  • When your meal is prepared, again pause and take three deep breaths. Thank the food once more, and thank your body for receiving this meal that you are offering to it.
  • Make sure there is no television, radio, or any other distraction. Just be present with yourself and your meal, or with any company you may have.
  • Smell the food before eating it, notice how this stimulates the production of enzyme-rich saliva in your mouth.
  • Take your first bite and set down your utensil. Chew this bite with awareness of the texture, taste, and movement of the teeth. Be careful not to rush here, remember to be slow, to breathe, and to chew thoroughly.
  • Continue eating slowly, with attention, and without distraction.
  • Listen to the physical cues of eating, and put down your utensil as soon as you feel your stomach is full—not so full that it is stretched out and bloated, but once you notice the sensation of fullness.
  • Stop here and simply breathe in a few breaths. Notice what emotions are present here—are you at peace and content with what you have eaten? Or are you anxious wanting to continue consuming? Is this wish to continue eating a genuine desire to satisfy your hunger, or a desire to satisfy your sensory craving?
  • Aim to nourish the body and mind, not just to please the cravings of the taste buds. Appreciate your food and stop when you are full.
  • When you clean up and wash the dishes, be mindful of the experience of cleaning and washing the dishes.
  • See the whole process of eating as a sacred ritual—a daily opportunity to bring your total presence into each moment.

If you'd like to learn more about mindfulness check out our Introduction to Meditation course

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