I love to eat, and usually do so in a noisy, crowded New York City restaurant, or at home in front of the television.
I’m also a recovering emotional eater known to put away five or more slices of pizza in one sitting, especially when triggered by an unsettling event or memory.
I’ve noticed I’m not alone in this. As we become busier and busier in a society bombarded with electronic devices and social media updates, it’s no wonder many of us feel increasingly distracted. We rush through our meals so we can get back to work, our favorite TV show or Instagram.
I had never heard of “mindful” eating until just recently while on a week-long spiritual retreat at Kripalu in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health implements a silent breakfast every morning where guests are requested to stay quiet while eating. (That’s right, no chatting with your friend or neighbor.)
At first I thought, how am I going to do that? I’m extremely outgoing, love getting to know people, and sharing a meal is a perfect time to socialize. What I found, however, is that practicing the art of silent breakfast is not only doable, but completely enjoyable!
Here are some of the benefits I have experienced from Mindful Eating:
Weight Loss: When I practice mindful eating, I consume about a third of what I normally eat. I enjoy my food more, and notice instantly when I am full and stop eating, rather than being distracted and stuffing myself. I find it is much easier to control the amount of food I am eating, and I feel more satisfied. Recent studies show that people who eat mindlessly (or highly distracted) tend to overeat, and consume more calories than they realize.
Peace of mind: I find myself at ease and stress-free while eating in silence. It gives me the opportunity to deeply relax into my dining space and engage all my senses with each bite. The intention of eating in silence is to center you for a day of calm and peace—a day where you can be more clear, focused, creative and joyful.
Healthy digestion: I also noticed something very profound: my stomach doesn’t hurt after eating mindfully, which is quite rare for me. I was taught that healthy digestion happens when meals are taken while relaxed, in a calm environment, either alone or with good company.
Proper nourishment: Savor the moment. We are so conditioned to talk, swipe, text and email on our phones while eating, (I know I am), but truly nourishing yourself is more than just what you eat. Nourishment is about sustenance—not just what you feed your body, but also how you fuel your soul. Nurture yourself during meals by being fully present, and truly enjoying your food—the textures, aromas and unique flavors.
Here are several simple ways you can practice Mindful Eating:
Relax the body and mind with a few deep breaths before eating.
Send gratitude to everyone who prepared your food.
Admire your food, notice all the shapes and colors.
Breathe in all the wonderful aromas of the meal.
Chew thoroughly, delighting in the depths of the flavors.
Relax for a few minutes before moving to the next event.
Mindful eating is a daily commitment, and may take some practice. The keys are awareness, non-judgement and understanding what you’re feeding yourself.
Are you physically hungry for food or something else like love or comfort? When you aren’t distracted, it’s much easier to differentiate between the two, and when you are aware, you can make healthier choices.
Try it out for yourself, and let me know how it goes!
Author: Kate Eckman
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Peter Hellberg