Do you ever find yourself reaching for food when you’re not hungry? Do you eat out of: boredom, loneliness, frustration or other emotions? If so, does it leave you satisfied or feeling guilty and unfulfilled? Is it possible that your true hunger is for something deeper — something not related to food at all?
To change mindless eating habits, we must become more aware of automatic behaviors around eating, of thoughts and feelings and of the social customs associated with food and eating. The best place to begin is by not making any changes at all but by paying attention, on purpose, non-judgmentally, to what you are eating and how it affects you: by eating mindfully.
Learning to eat mindfully is the key to developing a healthy relationship with oneself regarding food and eating choices. Developing a practice of mindfulness is the heart of living and eating mindfully. Mindfulness teaches us to become aware of our bodies, our thoughts, and our feelings without the habit of making something “good” or “bad”. We become more compassionate toward ourselves, more forgiving ~ responding as a loving friend might rather than a prisoner, already guilty. Being mindfully aware when we approach food, we are able to welcome our thoughts and feelings as simply visitors, here for only the moment, to teach us something about ourselves. In this way, we free ourselves from the tyranny of our thoughts and feelings and become able to wisely choose how to think, feel and act in difficult situations involving our relationship to food.
It is very normal to feel uncertain when first embracing mindfulness at the table. Creating a mindful eating practice means simply becoming more curious and aware while eating ~ yet the whole concept can appear overwhelming at first. Considering awareness in three distinct areas can make creating a mindful eating practice much easier.
First, think of mindfulness experiences that come from the physical world. These include what we are able to sense by being alive: sight, touch, smell and taste. Then think of inner awareness: what we’ve learned from our past and thoughts we have constructed about former experiences. Finally, consider what feelings arise while eating. And with compassion, welcome these feelings, increasing awareness.
A good rule of thumb in nurturing a mindful eating practice is to pause before a meal, being grateful for the nourishment. Then observe: what does the food look like, smell like, and taste like? And finally, be selective: eat what you want and what is nourishing; eat just enough for your body at the time (eating slowly, chewing each bite before taking the next bite); continue awareness of your feelings, thoughts and behavior as you complete your meal.
Ultimately, we learn the most important aspect of nutrition is not only about what is best to eat, but how our relationship to food can teach and inform us about who we are and how we can sustain ourselves at the deepest level of being. And from this private and sacred part of ourselves, we can begin to open to the vastness and beauty of life unseen before now.
If you’re ready to start enjoying mindful mealtimes, download my free ebook: Eating Mindfully ~ Your Key to Healthy Living, which includes a handy list of mindful eating guidelines to support you as you begin to establish awareness of hunger and mindful eating habits.
Paying attention to how you eat is important for health and wellness and is the first step toward transforming behavior. Listening to your body and becoming aware of the activity of the mind in relationship to food can help greatly to make and maintain healthy changes in your diet.
An excellent way to truly understand mindful eating is to follow along with my video demonstrating the all-time classic mindful eating experiment: the Raisin Eating Exercise.