This post was originally published earlier this year, but it’s something I’ll be thinking about and practicing yet again, when I serve up a slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast, Friday.
Mindfulness at mealtimes is a no-brainer.
Science shows us that eating mindlessly leads to weight gain, poor health decisions and lack of enjoyment. It also leads to indigestion, a fair amount of bloating and a craving for ice cream after 8:00 p.m. – maybe that’s just me.
But mindful eating — – this practice of paying attention and noticing without judgment – slows us down, helps us to savor (and enjoy) our food, connect to our emotions, (which can curb emotional eating) and make healthier choices. We are less likely to overeat, as well, because we tend to notice when we are full.
And, my own personal research done at the dining room table shows mindfulness can also ward of anger and insanity when the 8-year-old claims to hate the meal you just spent 40 minutes prepping.
Mindful eating is the opposite of eating cold, leftover pizza while standing at the counter. It is not chowing down on a protein bar while in the car, or unconsciously picking the mac & cheese off the kids’ plate. Sure, you can be mindful of those moments too, but to max out the benefits of mindful eating, it’s best to sit down, slow down and give your attention to the meal and the experience of eating it.
When you make dinnertime –or any meal — a practice in mindfulness, a time to slow down, come together, enjoy the food by appreciating its aroma and texture and beauty the time itself becomes more nourishing, satisfying, and yes, even calm. And who doesn’t want peace at the dinner table?
5 Tips for More Mindful Meals
1. Get quiet. Sit down. Even if you are by yourself, turn off technology, close the book, and shift your attention to the meal. Give thanks for the food. This does not have to be a prayer, but a pause in the moment to silently acknowledge the food before you. Allow yourself to be fully present. Notice your environment, how you feel sitting in the chair, the details of the food and decor. Focus on the meal experience, not the chores you have to finish after.
2. Eat with all of your senses. Before you dig in notice the colors and textures, aromas and sizzle. Experience the meal with more than just your taste buds. Savor that first bite. When you do take a taste, allow yourself to fully experience the sensations. Imagine you are a judge on Chopped or another cooking show and really allow the food to dance on your palette. Don’t judge it as good or bad, just experience it in the moment. Then absorb the positive feelings that come with a really good bite for 15 or 30 seconds before doing anything else. Notice them. Take them in. You’ll not only eat slower (and probably less) but you’ll develop greater appreciation for the meal.
3. Put your fork down between bites. Seriously, we are so rushed during the day that we even eat at a rapid fire pace. Mindfulness is about paying attention to the moment. You must slow down to do this and when I put my utensil down between bites, it’s a signal to self to settle down, take in the moment. It physically forces me to slow down.
4. Chew with your mouth closed. This is more than just good manners. Usually, our mouths are open because we are shoveling in food or we are talking, both are distractions to mindfully chewing every bite. Chew with your mouth closed. One bite at a time.
5. Create a ritual. Create a short ritual at meal times, such as offering grace before you eat. Or offer a up gratitude or a goodness, we call them, from the day. Perhaps you have a ritual of deliberately and carefully putting the napkin on your lap or a set way of serving others. Whatever it is, a short ritual repeated deliberately and consciously before you eat every meal will enhance your experience of it. Even the ritual of blowing out birthday candles has been shown to improve the taste of the cake.
**portions of this post have been reprinted from an earlier post in Imperfect Spirituality.