Sounds like a dream, right?
Slowing down, easing anxiety, loosing weight, decreasing stress and all the while making minimal changes to your lifestyle.
But what if there was a way to make all these things easier?
What if there was a way to remind yourself of what’s important. A way that only took a few minutes out of your day. A way that hundreds of thousands are using everyday.
Can I ask a question?
Are you like I used to be?
Rushing from one meal to the next. Consumed with thoughts about things that need to be done. Stressed out at the shortage of time. And then the weight piles on too. It’s a never ending circle always threatening to spiral out of control.
Admit it: you overeat, then feel sluggish and tired, boosting yourself with coffee or little snacks.
Bottom line: you’re only just in control.
But it’s not too late to change. It’s not too late to slow down, to appreciate what you’ve got and to bring more calmness, happiness and joy into your life.
And the best part?
All it takes is a simple shift in how you approach something you do everyday. It’s subtle, slight, but easy. And it’ll soon give you the confidence and control you need.
Can I explain how?
The opposite of mindless eating is Mindful eating.
Mindful eating is simply taking the time to appreciate the full richness, taste and texture of your food.
Mindful eating is a core practice of the two well-established Mindfulness Programmes, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) the other is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Both are clinically proven to reduce stress and anxiety and boost well-being.
The most common exercise is to take an ordinary grape and place it in the palm of the hand. Before eating you gently role it between two fingers to get a feel for the texture. You look at it carefully as if seeing one for the first time. Do you notice anything different?
Once your finished, you gently place it into your mouth. You role it around and dig into any sensations? What is the flavour? What tastes are there? Finally you chew. Do you notice any difference in taste?
When I first did this exercise I felt a bit silly. I notice many of my students doing this for the first time do so also.
So you’re not alone when you feel this way.
Nevertheless, the exercise is an important one in increasing awareness. It teaches us how much we can miss if we’re too busy to notice.
Mindful eating is no different from all other Mindful exercises.
It’s an informal exercise that easily fits into everyday life.
Let me ask: How often do you take the time to taste your food?
Often I rush my food so much I end up choking. One minute I’ll be scoffing an apple or stuffing a sandwich down my gullet, the next I’ll be struggling with it lodged in my gullet, desperately reaching for a glass of water.
Ok, you’re probably not that bad.
But even if you take time to sit down with your family or friends you may still find that much of dinner time is taken up with talk with little attention on the food itself.
Or when eating alone you might do so watching the TV, surfing the web or playing on your phone.
And what’s worse?
Mindless eating is just another symptom of the alienation from experience that can occur in modern life.
The simple truth is: it’s the slowing down and noticing that counts. It’s that that makes all the difference.
The two essential things you need to do are to get into the right mind-set and to ensure there are no distractions. Turn off the TV and shutdown your computer. Turn off your phone and and tell those around you need a few minutes to yourself.
Make sure you are sitting comfortably and are focused. You don’t need to sit in any specific position, but make sure you are relaxed and can feel your arms hanging loosely by your side.
If your struggling to find the time, pick one meal where your least distracted. Or perhaps you can time yourself and just try the first two minutes of every meal. Or you could pick some special foods you love and reserve mindful eating for those. Whatever you do, pick at least one thing that’ll help you get started.
Mindful eating, like all Mindfulness practices takes a little time to learn. Most of the time you try it you’ll find yourself distracted by one thing or another. You’ll sit down to eat a little more Mindfully and then soon be lost in thought.
And life doesn’t stop because you try a few new techniques. They’ll always be stuff to do.
If you do notice your mind has drifted off into a daydream or you’ve been distracted by something else then just bring your attention back to your eating. No need to criticise yourself or feel bad. It’s the fact you noticed that counts.
Now you can eat your food slowly, really appreciating the nuances of all the flavours that are there.
Those who suffer from gastronomic problems or, like me, often don’t chew their food properly, may benefit the most Mindful eating.
If you suffer from ailments related to food you may want to make Mindful eating a more regularly practice.
But really anyone will benefit.
If you eat Mindfully regularly enough you’ll soon start noticing and appreciating your food more. One day you’ll be lost in a reverie or you’ll be having a meal while chatting with your kids and you’ll suddenly remember to taste and appreciate your food. Even just for a few seconds.
It’s this appreciation for the richness of what you already have that helps slow you down. It’s the experience of pleasure now, that helps lower stress and anxiety.
Mindful eating can be done with any food and does not require any specific foods or diet. But by bringing attention to the way we eat it can help us make healthier food choices or stick to our chosen food-plans.
Many people find losing weight easier as they’re more conscious of the food they’re putting into their mouth. It becomes harder to guzzle-down greasy, fat leaden or overly sweet foods if you’ve dedicated time to enjoy the flavours. And, with the richness of your food now apparent, you may even come to appreciate healthy foods that you previously thought you disliked.
Moreover, Mindful eating also allows you to notice when you are full and avoid overeating. It becomes hard to ignore your stomach when it tells you its full. It becomes hard to ignore your body when it says its’ had enough.
Most of us are busy these days.
The luxury of eating Mindfully for every meal is usually just not possible.
Yet occasionally taking the time to slow down your eating works wonders. You’ll relish your food. You’ll notice flavours you didn’t notice before.
Speaking from someone who often eats so fast that he chokes on his food, I can tell you it’s not possible every time. When I eat Mindfully, however, I can feel an intense awareness of the smell of a cup of coffee. I can sense the aroma wafting across the room.
Can you remember the last meal you ate?
Can you remember what a banana, yogurt or apple pie really tastes like?
Mindful eating is like flicking a switch on. Suddenly the world is full of flavours you didn’t even know existed.
And as you practice learning to slow down and enjoy your eating you’ll notice other areas of your life slowing down too. The appreciation you feel for the gift of taste, for the powerful sensations that food can trigger, will spill over to other areas of your life. Like walking, noticing nature, enjoyment of what’s happening in the moment and spontaneity.
All bringing you calm and happiness. You’ll be more confident in controlling your weight, sticking to a diet, and selecting foods that are both delicious and good for you. You’ll be relaxed when stressful situations arise. You’ll be grateful and appreciative at every meal.
Matt is a trained and licenced Mindfulness teacher and Stress and Anxiety Reduction Counsellor operating in and around the Peterborough area. After overcoming his own stress and anxiety he's found his purpose teaching others to do the same.
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