The art of mindful eating
We have a million and one things to think about in daily life; work demands, parenting qualms, social pressures, household chores, keeping physically active and eating well - and remembering to drink enough water while doing everything else too! And sometimes our nutrition falls low on the list of priorities - especially those pesky evening meals.
It can be difficult to maintain eating well alongside everything else, especially with the ease of takeaway apps and feeling exhausted by the end of the day. The idea of planning and prepping can be irritating and stressful, and we might inhale our full meal within 10 minutes of sitting without even realising. Heard of empty-plate-grief? It’s real, people.
Mindfulness can be a great way to de-stress, slow down and appreciate the moment, helping us to feel better equipped to cope throughout the day, manage our demands and feel grateful for what we do have. But for some, the thought of mindfulness provokes eye-rolling, scoffed laughs, and we can quickly switch off - so stay with us.
What on earth is mindful eating?
When we practice mindfulness we want to be intentional, focused and present - we don’t need lots of time, solitude, nor a rigid meditation to get us started (although if these things work for you then fill your boots). There are some really simple ways to practice mindfulness without really having to change our lifestyle. If you’ve been finding a mindful moment hiding under the duvet at the crack of dawn and hoping the kids aren’t ready to start the day yet, this might be for you.
Mindful eating takes the principles of mindfulness (real skills that require practice and effort) and combines them with a simple task that we do regularly - therefore removing some of the barriers in place that would otherwise hold us back from ever doing mindfulness. Plus who can argue with a longer lunch break away from the screen, when it’s for our wellbeing!?
We might see cooking and eating as something we just do to survive - and it’s not wrong - but it can be soooo much more. Especially if we’re busy people who have lots to do and think about most days and finding time to ourselves is tricky. But by implementing mindfulness to our meals we might find the whole experience more enticing, enjoyable and stress-free.
Do I have to eat with my eyes closed?
It’s not eating while practising mindfulness, rather being mindful while eating - so no we don’t need to close our eyes to get the full experience, that would be slightly strange (although no judgement here if you wanna give it a go).
The idea is to intentionally focus on what we’re doing right now in the present moment. Simple, right? Let’s look at some ways to do this around cooking, meal times and eating.
Mindful eating - the beauty of this practice is that it can be done whenever we find ourselves peckish, snack-hunting, or ready for lunch (literally whenever we’re ready to munch). Intentionally decide to eat whatever delicious morsels are in front of us mindfully. This means focusing on eating, without the TV, checking emails, scrolling through social media, and without external distraction. In the moment pay attention to the sensations while eating; the flavours, textures, sounds - notice when judgements appear and let them float away without taking attention away from the present chew. We’ll have many thoughts pop up naturally the first few times, but as we practice we’ll find we’re no longer noticing whether the food is good, bad, delicious, or too salty, it’ll become a whirl of senses. Nom nom!
Mindful mealtime - to help create a regular practice, pick a specific meal time (doesn’t have to be daily), maybe lunch is a good time to help reset through the day, perhaps Friday night dinner after a long week or Sunday brunch to celebrate the weekend. When it comes to this meal, intentionally decide to eat mindfully, focus on eating without distractions, and pay attention in the moment thinking about how eating feels, what it tastes like, is it crunchy, or slurpy, or chewy?
Mindful cooking - now mealtimes and eating aren’t always the right time to intentionally focus and be present, perhaps we’ve got small hungry mouths to feed, it’s the time we connect with our partners or perhaps our evening meal is a cue to really switch off from the day, feet up and telly on. We can practice mindfulness when cooking - intentionally decide to focus and be present with the food we prepare. What sounds does cooking create? Chopping, sizzling, simmering. What can we smell? Sauteing onions, fish baking, bacon grilling - yum.
Maybe we’re cuisine connoisseurs taste testing each component, or perhaps we like a bit of ‘Salt Bae’ action and feel the coarse flakes crumbling between our fingers (although maybe just salt as the video shows it can get messy!). If you’re brave enough, the kids can even get involved with this one, but maybe mentally prepare for the culinary chaos that will follow and the clean up after!
See, the possibilities are really endless. Mindful eating can be a really simple way to kick-start regular practice, step back from the stress of meal planning and prep, or take a moment to find peace during a hectic day. Try it out, alone, as a family, as a romantic affair on date night - whatever works best for you! Still not convinced about mindfulness, have a read of this.
Reality reminder: we won’t find that all food-related stress miraculously floats away immediately, like mindfulness, it’s a practice that can take time. We probably won’t find that we become gurus of serenity after one mindful mouthful, but we might enjoy the process a little more. And, ultimately, it might not be for you, end of. But it’s worth a try so give it a go, see how it works, and let us know what you think!