No time for a real break? Do you sometimes eat in a rush in between meetings? In our busy always-on world it’s tempting to eat something quickly on the side and not really being present while eating.
Following our Search Inside Yourself trainings, I offer Mindful Lunches for my colleagues so that we can spend a restorative break together. In the middle of the canteen bustle we sit together and eat in silence. We practice Mindful Eating by bringing our full attention to the present moment and focus on the look, smell, taste and feel of the food we’re eating.
Some years ago, I sat at a long table in the dining room at a yoga retreat and enjoyed the beautiful view over the Austrian Alps. My eyes gratefully wandered to the table, which was filled with plates full of colorful vegetables and organic delights.
Before we started to eat, Hildegard Biller, founder of the SOAMI center, announced that we would practice mindful eating. She recommended to take a mouthful of vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins, and salads — but not completely fill our mouth — and then put the cutlery to the side. The aim was to purely focus on the food and not swallow before having chewed it for 35 to 50 times!
This practice helps feeling more present, connect with our bodies, and increasing our level of energy. From a physiological perspective, more saliva is produced so that acidic food can be alkalized more easily, which leads to better digestion and improved nutrient absorption.
I looked at the puzzled faces of the other participants and started to realize that this was not a wellness vacation. Obviously, the goal of the retreat was to initiate a transformation. I decided to accept the challenge. Since then, I have integrated mindful eating in my daily life — it is a never-ending journey and there are always new aspects to discover.
Before starting to eat, I remind myself to sit upright, lengthen my spine and ensure my legs are not crossed. I take some deep breaths and check if I am really hungry or maybe just tired and need a break.
In case you grow your own vegetables, you know how much effort that involves. After having planted the seeds, they need the right conditions and time to grow. The same appreciation I give home-grown vegetables I give to everyone involved in producing and preparing my meals. Chopping vegetables as well as to creatively experiment with spices and whatever ingredients I have at home is also a mindfulness practice for me.
I start with a moment of gratitude and appreciate the people who produced and prepared my food. When I eat, I use all my senses: I have a look at the variety and the colors. I smell the various scents and I feel the different textures in my mouth. I will not forget, of course, the taste I experience while curiously trying different combinations.
I consciously notice the intention to swallow and chew a few more times. Because I tend to eat too fast, I put away my cutlery and chew until really everything is really chewed up. This trick helps me to only to take the next bite after I swallowed. Whenever other thoughts are coming up, I notice them, let them go, and come back to eating.
After eating, I check whether the food was good for me, if I feel nourished and ate the right amount. It important to me not to throw leftovers away but reuse them the next day in another meal. I am also an enthusiastic food saver in the non-profit Food Sharing, organization. I save surplus food from retailers that would otherwise be thrown away and distribute them to public shelves or people who use them up.
Mindful Eating in a Nutshell
- Start with a moment of gratitude – appreciate the people who produced and prepared your food
- View the variety and the colors
- Smell different scents and herbs
- Feel the different textures in your mouth
- Taste your food – try different combinations – be curious
- Put away your cutlery – chew until everything is chewed up – and only then take the next bite
- Use your meal as a focus object – notice your thoughts – come back to eating
- Experience it yourself and enjoy your meals using mindful eating!
When eating mindfully I can really enjoy my meals, it helps me not overeat and feel more satisfied afterwards. I consciously perceive the taste of the food and value every bite.
“Every moment nature is serving fresh dishes with the items of happiness. It is our choice to recognize and taste it.”
― Amit Ray, Mindfulness Living in the Moment