60 years ago, dinner time would last for close to an hour and a half.
Now it lasts about 12 minutes.
And if that’s not scary enough, breakfast and lunch times are even more disturbing.
On average, these meals last less than 2 minutes!
With diet related illnesses steady on the rise and obesity rates spreading like a pandemic, there is huge concern regarding not just what people eat, but also the way they eat.
In today’s busy world, mindful eating is one of the most overlooked meditative practices despite the many benefits it offers for health, happiness, and life satisfaction.
This transformative practice can help you lose weight, save money, and feel better all around.
1. What is mindful eating meditation?
Mindful eating is the practice of being present with your food.
It helps you cultivate awareness for your food as it influences your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and the world around you.
Simply put, mindful eating is a meditative practice that teaches you how to pay attention to what you eat, how you eat, how it makes your mind and body feel, as well as how it impacts the environment.
2. Why practice mindful eating meditation?
With so many modern distractions, it has become way too easy to consume junk and processed foods. To scarf down way more calories than you need. To eat things that are causing your body discomfort and aligning yourself for serious health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control:
more than one third of American adults are obese
over 100 million American adults have diabetes or prediabetes
1 out of every 4 deaths in the USA is caused by heart disease
Mindful eating meditation helps you avoid the trap of mindless eating. Instead of indulging in your distractions, it keeps you present on your meal and aware of how your food influences your thoughts and feelings. This practice most importantly helps break bad eating habits that can negatively impact your health and wellness.
Bad eating habits are easy to develop because they’re convenient and require little to no effort. They often involve highly stimulating foods such as salt, sugar, and fat that cause a drug-like reaction in the brain. These foods are often found at the takeout window, frozen food aisle, or bag of snacks that commonly get gobbled down in front of the television.
The scary thing is that a lot of people aren’t even aware that they have bad eating practices until they become sick.
3. What is mindless eating?
Eating occupies a lot of our thinking. In fact, if you’re like most people, you probably make over 250 food decisions each day. Many of which you aren’t even aware of.
Mindless eating refers to eating not out of hunger but rather because of influences. Popular influences include: family and friends, packaging, dishes, product labels, and distractions. Even how you position food in your cupboard can influence how you eat.
According to mindless eating specialist Brian Wansink, PhD part of the reason why people resort to overeating is because of overstimulation. “Most of us have too much chaos going on in our lives to consciously focus on every bite we eat, and then ask ourselves if we’re full.”
When you’re eating, your mind should be focused exclusively on your food. Not your phone, the television, or your upcoming board meeting. Your distractions should be as minimized as possible to help you concentrate on the task at hand…eating!
Where mindless eating allows you to think or do anything you want during meal time, mindful eating meditation is the exact opposite. It requires that you commit yourself to being present with the food you are about to eat and the company with whom you will be sharing it.
4. What are the benefits of practicing mindful eating meditation?
Mindful eating requires that you nurture a kind relationship with your food and yourself. It encourages you to become present as you nourish your body. Additionally, it helps you make better decisions when it comes to choosing what foods you consume as well as healthy portion sizes.
Reduces impulsive eating habits
One of the benefits of mindful practice is reducing stress. When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases cortisol which increases your appetite and motivates you to eat. Because stress is one of the main causes of overeating, learning to meditate and control your stress levels can dramatically improve your diet.
Eating less and appreciating more
One of the unfortunate side effects of our super busy schedules is that things as traditional as meal time often get ignored.
Set aside a designated eating time and really show up and be present at the table. Take your time to really bite, chew and savour your food instead of scarfing it down and trying not to choke. An additional benefit of this is that you’ll likely consume less food because you’ll be more in tune with your body as it begins to feel full.
When you eat slower, you chew more and end up eating less. Furthermore, you give your tummy a chance to tell your brain when it’s had enough food.
Eating becomes more pleasurable
The moment you become distracted by your phone, the television, or your commute, you lose the ability to fully enjoy your food. You lose out on the smells, tastes, textures, and dining experience.
When you set aside a time and space to eat, the whole process becomes more enjoyable. If you’re dining with others and are truly present, you will find that the whole experience becomes much more pleasurable.
Appreciation for the environment
As climate change continues to challenge global food security, it has become even more important to appreciate the environment. Not only for the fresh air and water you drink, but for the very food that sustains you. Without incredible natural forces, you would cease to exist!
Each item that you eat is made possible thanks to the earth’s unique growing conditions. Because of these specialized nutrients, water, and sunshine, you are able to eat things as exotic as a rambutan or foods as common as a potato!
Improved connection with people
Another great benefit of practicing mindful eating is that it helps you to become more connected with the world around you. You begin to see that this food was made possible by sun, rain, and the help of many farmers.
You recognize that there were lots of people involved in getting this food to you. That many people worked very hard so that you could eat. That your health and well-being is contingent on the dedication of many people.
Opportunity to practice gratitude
Whenever you’re waiting at a restaurant, the grocery store, or even your kitchen table, use this opportunity to practice gratitude.
Part of mindful eating meditation is learning to become appreciative. When you are thankful for your meal and see that it took the help of many people and natural processes to provide you with this delicious nourishment, you become present with your food.
If it’s winter time and you’re eating imported avocados, oranges, or sipping a cup of coffee, chances are that this food has traveled far to reach you.
Learn your triggers
A common reason why people end up overeating or eating the wrong foods is because of emotional triggers. Make a habit of recognizing why you feel inclined to eat.
Are you craving food because you’re upset or because your tummy is grumbling out of hunger and wants to fuel your body?
If you’ve determined that your craving has been caused by an emotional trigger, you might want to try resisting the urge to eat. This can help break the cycle of “eating your emotions” and help you cultivate a more mindful relationship with food.
5. What are the risks of mindless eating?
Listen to your tummy because it has a mind of its own…literally
Living deep within your gut is what researchers have been calling a second brain. This enteric nervous system has over 100 million neurons. That’s more cellular transmitters than your spinal cord or peripheral nervous system!
The second brain doesn’t have any cognitive abilities to process things like philosophy or music. What it can do however is control the operations in your gut without intervention from the brain in your head. And most impressively, it can influence your emotions.
New research has found that our previous understanding that emotional stress might be causing digestive issues make actually be completely backwards. According to John Hopkins Medicine, studies are now showing that irritation in your gut can actually causing emotional responses in your mind.
Your second brain is programmed to help you digest your food. To break it down into energy and remove waste. It’s also there to send you feedback to tell you what foods it’s happy to receive and which foods it isn’t.
Approximately 74% of Americans live with gastrointestinal discomfort according to a survey conducted in association with New York City’s NYU Langone Medical Center. Common symptoms associated with this discomfort included: gas, diarrhea, bloating, and pain.
These ailments, aside from being uncomfortable, can signify severe underlying problems. Learning to listen to how your body reacts to food can help you become more proactive with your health. It can also help you understand how your tummy can be influencing your mood.
6. How can you make mindful eating part of your everyday experience?
Simple – find time. And if you can’t find time, make time.
If you’re a busy person you’ll know that sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. That no matter what you get done, you feel like you’ve still got lots on your to-do list and you’re simply running out of hours. Where did the time go?!
Unfortunately, in an effort to keep up with busy schedules, people rely on fast food, processed meals, and whatever can be quickly tossed from microwave to table.
Americans spend an average of 30 minutes on meal preparation for the entire day!
Compare that to other popular daily activities such as the average 300 minutes spent watching television, and it’s not hard to see that food isn’t a big priority in most homes.
- Watching television – 5 hours
- Engaging with mobile applications – 5 hours
- Active on social media – 2 hours
- Hair and makeup – 55 minutes
- Shopping – 44.5 minutes
In order to practice mindful eating, you need to set aside some time in which you can be fully present. This might mean missing a bit of television or spending less time on your mobile device.
7. Mindful eating tips
Mindful eating can be challenging. It involves breaking habits, lifestyle changes, and committing your full attention to the present moment.
If you don’t practice mindful eating meditation regularly, don’t sweat it. Here are a few simple tips to help you get started:
- Turn off your cell phone
- Get away from the television
- Don’t eat on the couch or your room
- Set aside meal time
- Eat in silence
- If you’re at work, get away from your desk
- Take your breaks as needed
- Try not to eat on the go
- Choose nutritious foods
- Take smaller bites and chew more thoroughly
- Cook for yourself
- Use smaller dishes
- Keep junk food out of sight
8. A simple mindful eating meditation exercise to try:
Start with a natural snack such as an apple, some berries, or almonds. Prepare your food slowly and deliberately. If you’re washing your food or just pouring it into a dish, do this with care. Begin to feel gratitude for the energetic and health benefits you are soon to receive.
Be mindful of the effort that went into producing your food. Extend your appreciation to the farmers who tended to these crops, the people who harvested and transported this food to the store, as well as the people who stocked the shelves and the clerks who packaged these items for you.
Notice that it took many hands and lots of resources to bring you the very food you are about to eat.
Begin to take notice about all the qualities of your food before you even begin eating. Notice the colors, textures, and smells. Become aware of how your grumbling tummy reacts to the sight of these foods.
Take a small bite of your snack and close your eyes. As you chew, begin to feel nourishment filling up your body. Chew slowly and deliberately.
As you chew, take this opportunity to fully explore all the rich tastes that your food produces. It’s likely that you’ve grown accustomed to adding lots of sauces and seasoning to your food and have long forgotten what simple ingredients taste like. Reacquaint yourself with food in its natural form without salt, sugar, or any additives.
9. Mindful eating checklist
To help you give mindful eating meditation your best shot possible, we put together a handy checklist you can use before you begin each practice.
This is an easy to use reference guide that won’t take you more than a few seconds to fill out but can help you transform the way you eat.
Mindful eating can dramatically improve your relationship with food and benefit your overall health and wellness.
Additionally, it can save you money, help you lose weight, and develop a better understanding of how your body reacts to different triggers.
Take control of your diet, enjoy your meals, and cultivate peace with this profound meditation.
Use this practice throughout the day to reap the full nourishment and pleasure that your food has to offer.
One mindful bite at a time….