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Practising the Art of Mindful Eating

Picture the scene, it’s lunch time in a big city, distracted looking workers filling the streets, sandwich in one hand, mobile phone in the other.  Take a bite, look at your phone, dash across the intersection before the lights turn red.

Does that look familiar to you?  Is this something you find yourself doing and then wondering what happened to lunch?

Now let’s change the movie.  It’s your lunch break, picture yourself sitting in the park, you’re hungry but before you take a bite you pause for a second to notice how blue the sky is and you feel how warm the sun is today.  For a few seconds more you watch a sparrow delicately pecking at some crumbs on the grass.  You turn to look at your own lunch and see how appetizing it is, the colours vivid and inviting, the reds are very red, the greens bright and alive.  You even notice the aroma of freshness as you lift the food to your mouth for that first bite.  Ahhh, how good is that, the flavours filling your mouth.  You chew contentedly, noticing the texture of the food, taking your time to enjoy those delicious sensations for as long as possible.  You eat your lunch slowly, enjoying every mouthful and when you finish you know what you’ve eaten and how good it tasted.

In the second scenario, you’ve just practised the art of eating mindfully. You were present in the moment; aware of your surroundings, your senses were engaged; you noticed the tastes, the textures, the flavours, the aroma of the food, you were calm and relaxed; you ate slowly.  Paying attention to what we’re eating, how we’re eating and how much we’re eating is an important element in losing weight and maintaining healthy eating habits for the long term and there is a growing body of research that supports a mindful approach to eating as a way of losing weight and keeping it off.  For more information see Harvard website here.

Mindfulness is not new, it’s a state of awareness, an experience of being in the moment that is fundamental to many meditation and martial arts practices and even in the west we can see elements of mindfulness in practice.  We’re all familiar with the following scene from movies and some of you may have experienced it in your own families.  The whole family is seated at the table for dinner, there is no television to be seen or heard and before eating everyone bows their head and says grace or gives thanks for the food they’re about to eat.  A quaint, out-dated custom you might say, perhaps, but in fact what these people are doing is practising elements of the art of mindful eating.  Paying attention and pausing to acknowledge the source of our food are acts of mindfulness.

If you have issues with weight, being more mindful of what and how you’re eating is something you can start doing with the very next mouthful.  Even if you don’t have a weight problem but are feeling stressed and as though you never have enough time, you too can benefit from a more mindful approach to everyday life.  If you’re ever eaten something and had the feeling, where did it go, have I finished it already, a mindful approach can help you enjoy your food and get more from it.  Because mindful eating not only makes eating more enjoyable it also promotes healthy digestion.

The benefits are all there, slow down, be aware of how much you’re eating, give your body time to register that you’ve eaten enough, engage all your senses, enjoy the taste and aromas, improve your digestion.

And to help you get started with a more conscious and engaged way of eating, I’ve made a short mindful eating recording.  Try it for yourself and notice how your experience of  food begins to change.