Welcome to Stage 2: Delving Deeper
Week 2: Mindful Eating
“At some point during the day, taste the coffee,” she explains. “Notice it and that’s already disciplining your mind. Your mind wanders? It’s supposed to. Just bring it back to tasting the coffee, over and over again, and that’s like doing a sit-up.” Ruby Wax
How often do you eat without tasting your food? Sometimes consuming entire cakes or packets of crisps without tasting any of it? Do you find yourself reaching for food when you experience an emotion like sadness, anxiety or even joy?
We tend to eat mindlessly, using food to satisfy a feeling in us that may need another kind of nourishment. Mindfulness helps us to connect more to this body we have and the more we connect to it, the more awareness we have about how we are fuelling it.
According to Jan Chozen Bays “Mindful eating is not directed by charts, tables, pyramids, or scales. It is not dictated by an expert. It is directed by your own inner experiences, moment by moment. Your experience is unique. Therefore you are the expert. In the process of learning to eat mindfully, we replace self-criticism with self-nurturing, anxiety with curiosity, and shame with respect for your own inner wisdom.
Mindful eating is a way to rediscover one of the most pleasurable things we do as human beings. It also is a path to uncovering many wonderful activities going on right under our noses and within our own bodies. Mindful eating has the unexpected benefit of helping us tap into our body’s natural wisdom and our heart’s natural capacity for openness and gratitude.
Why can’t I think, walk, and be aware of the taste of the tart at the same time? I can’t do all these at once because the mind has two distinct functions, thinking and awareness. When the thinking is turned up, the awareness is turned down. When the thinking function is going full throttle, we can eat an entire meal, an entire cake, an entire carton of ice cream, and not taste more than a bite or two. When we don’t taste, we can end up stuffed to the gills but feeling completely unsatisfied. This is because the mind and mouth weren’t present, weren’t tasting or enjoying, as we ate. The stomach became full but the mind and mouth were unfulfilled and continued calling for us to eat. If we don’t feel satisfied, we’ll begin to look around for something more or something different to eat. Everyone has had the experience of roaming the kitchen, opening cupboards and doors, looking vainly for something, anything, to satisfy.
The only thing that will cure this, a fundamental kind of hunger, is to sit down and be, even for a few minutes, wholly present. If we eat and stay connected with our experience and with the people who grew and cooked the food, who served the food, and who eat alongside us, we will feel most satisfied, even with a meager meal. This is the gift of mindful eating, to restore our sense of satisfaction no matter what we are or are not eating.”
Important to note: Mindful eating is not about denying yourself your “treats”, it’s about bringing presence to the food that you’re eating. You can still have chips, wine, chocolate, crisps etc, but next time, slow down and really taste them, you might find that you eat less or that your experience is different.
How do you eat mindfully
When you’re eating, just eat – simple as that. Eating with awareness gives us choices (how much we eat and how we eat) but we must be present to choose.
I have created an audio recording for you to use to try mindful eating, so you can do this with my guidance until you get the hang of it yourself. You can try starting off with an apple, or a piece of fruit. Do this on your own and you will find that you eat less as you’re actually tuning into what you’re doing rather than eating mindlessly or emotionally.
Here are the steps:
Sit down at a table & remove all distractions – Newspapers, magazines, TV’s, phones, iPad, etc.
Take a moment to look at your food, the colours, the shapes etc
As you begin to eat, engage your senses – what can you taste, can you distinguish the flavours, can you smell the aromas?
Put down your knife and fork. Be aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as you eat. Be present to the internal processing and external environment. Your jaw moving, your throat swallowing and your stomach receiving the food.
Chew slowly until your mouth is empty.
Acknowledge responses to food such as likes and dislikes, without judgements.
Be aware of the point at which you become full and the decision process of when to start and stop eating. Ask yourself "Am I satisfied now? Have I had enough?"
As you eat, express gratitude for the food and all the people who were responsible in getting it your plate.
Most of all - taste and enjoy your food! You will most probably find that you eat less.
For the practice that I've recorded for you today, we will practice mindfully eating bite sized pieces of fruit- it can be any fruit that you want. Afterwards, record your experience if you wish
And if you want to practice this in your every day life, challenge yourself to notice the two parts to every food choice - what and how much.
Until next time,