By Ashley Reichel, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
Maybe I am the only one (but I highly doubt I am) who has ever had visions of food. Not just visions but semi-obsessive thoughts about what I am going to eat and when I am going to eat it. These “visions” don’t just come to me when I am happily and fully engaged, but typically on the car ride home after a particularly stressful, frustrating day. In these moments I become anxious and stressed and the short 20 minute commute feels like a road trip cross country (ok, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration!). At the very least though, everyone is driving far too slowly, and I feel as though I should be home already. Once home, I head right for the fridge, cupboard, or pantry (wherever my vision has led me) and dive in. I find that before the food has even hit my belly I am looking for more. This, my friends, is not mindfully eating!
I think far too often when we eat, we are led by our emotions, our lack of time (whether perceived or actual), and/or our hectic busy lives, so much so that food has become tasteless and full bellies go unnoticed as we reach for more. This is perhaps because, for whatever reason, we haven’t taken the time to prepare, chew, savor, taste, smell and most importantly enjoy our food!
As my story clearly states, I have been guilty of this practice. I have also been known to rush around the kitchen, cook everything on high, and eat in front of the TV. And if I am being completely honest, most of the time I haven’t REALLY been enjoying my food. Sure I notice that it tastes good or bad, if it’s too hot or cold, but I am usually ready for seconds before I have even asked myself if I am really still hungry. In some extreme cases I’m already planning a snack for later. All of this can certainly be classified as… mindless eating.
I have also, however, learned to mindfully eat. This practice comes from a place of calm and includes the preparation leading up to the meal. It may seem silly and even impractical to some, but I strongly believe there is value in taking the time to be present in your eating. Prepare your food carefully, take the time to read the whole recipe, arrange your food purposefully and pleasingly on your plate, and sit down in a comfortable distraction-free spot to consume. This can be especially meaningful when we try new foods that we haven’t become so comfortable and numb to. It is here we notice new tastes, textures, and aromas. When we are able to take the time to enjoy and appreciate these small details, we often times feel more satisfied, fully satiated, and without that desire to look for more.
I am not saying every meal has to be a deep meaningful experience (though wouldn’t it be nice?), nor am I saying you need to cook a three-course meal to benefit from this practice. The same can be achieved with a piece of fruit, cut nicely and enjoyed sitting in the sun (on your lunch break or while your children nap).
Taking care of ourselves and nourishing ourselves both in mind and body, can have a great impact on our mood, relationships and overall well-being! So when we find ourselves stuck in a rut, feeling disconnected, and frankly out of control, take a deep breath and give some good old mindful eating a try!