A healthy attitude with food is so important to living a happy life. As children, we may have been told to finish what’s on our plates regardless of how full we feel. Growing up, it’s a point of honor to be a member of the clean plate club. In the United States, people are taught the bigger, the better and the more, the merrier – especially where cars, houses, friends, possessions and meal portions are concerned.
These messages give food a power over us that can lead to unhealthy eating habits, unhappiness and even illness. By practicing mindful eating, we can begin to shift the dynamics of our relationship with food, learning to eat healthily and joyfully.
The practice of eating mindfully isn’t about reduced food intake, it’s about understanding what and why we eat – to nourish the mind, body and spirit. Mindful eating is therefore not a weight-loss diet, but a feel-good diet. The equation is simple: Food = energy (positive or negative). If we eat unhealthy, processed food or too much food, we feel lousy. If we eat healthy, wholesome food in the right proportion, we feel good! The food we eat is directly related to the kind of energy we put back into the world. Food gives us energy that fuels action – and we want that energy and that action to be positive, right?
The practice of mindful eating is the practice of being aware of what you put into your body and how it makes you feel. This awareness will help you make better nutritional choices. Mindful eating teaches you to follow both your gut and your reason, to learn the wisdom of your body and become adept at gauging what foods are the right ones in the right quantity at the right time.
- Begin in silence. That means no TV, radio, books or magazines – just you and your meal. Sit comfortably.
- Before eating, acknowledge the food as a gift brought to you by the universe – the earth, sky, sun and moon.
- Acknowledge how this food will nourish and strengthen your body, and protect you from illness.
- So as to be worthy of this gift, take your time eating. Allow each morsel to be present in your mouth and chew slowly (here’s a diet trick to lose weight: once you think you are done chewing, chew ten more times).
- If you are eating a carrot, acknowledge that you are eating a carrot. Think about where that carrot came from… how it grew in the soil… how the sun and rain made it prosper… how the labor of human hands brought it to your table. Enjoy the taste of the carrot. Is it sweet, salty, savory or a combination of all three?
- If you eat in this way, you’ll begin to realize with every bite of food, you are eating part of the universe. You’ll begin to realize the miracle of the meal, and it will be that much more meaningful because you’ll be nourished by both the food and your thoughts.
- Soon, you’ll begin to feel nourished, and this will be a good feeling. Even if there is still food left on your plate, acknowledge that you have eaten enough for the moment.
If you practice mindful eating, you’ll notice your relationship to food gradually change over time. The next time you go to a restaurant and receive a portion fit for an army, you won’t feel threatened by the size of your meal, but will simply be amazed by the generosity and abundance before you, from which you’ll be more likely to take only what you need. You may still succumb to cravings for French fries and donuts, but when you eat them you’ll be mindful of over-indulgence. The more mindful you become, the less likely you’ll be to crave foods that leave you feeling ill, and the more you’ll seek out the fresh, whole foods that give you the energy to do good in the world.
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