In the next 3 months, we will be exposed to probably more delicious baked goods and community/family gatherings that we do all year long. The holidays pose a time of tremendous joy, and also an inordinate amount of food. Many people struggle with this time of year, especially with the pressures (and sometimes addictions) of eating all of the goodness that this season has to offer. Like I always say – striking a balance of joyful eating with decent nourishment and moderation is what we all strive for. And I’d like to throw in another goal into the equation: Mindful Eating.
Mindful eating is the concept and practice of eating slowly and being aware of every single bite, flavor, mouthfeel, body sensation and process of digestion while we eat. Mindful eating discourages the “eat on the go” habit or the mindless eating out of a bag while in front of the TV. Instead, this small but profound practice encourages you to take extra time to prepare your food with good intention, sit with your meal for plenty of time to enjoy it slowly, and relax fully while digesting. This will allow time for you to fully chew your food (a process that your stomach really appreciates) and often eat less than you would otherwise, as the stomach will feel full more quickly with this slower eating pattern.
Often when we eat unconsciously (like in front of the TV or computer, eating out of the potato chip bag), we are mindlessly putting food into our mouths without tasting and chewing. And before you know it, that entire bag is gone. Unconscious eating is just a straight up bad habit most people to without even thinking, and it takes a while to shift out of this phase of eating. It is also one of the biggest causes of weight gain, and also of judgmental thoughts and “guilt” for people when they eat. I am, of course, of the mindset that food is a joyful thing and should be practiced with good intention, ritual, shared experience and mindfulness. So how can you make small shifts to begin eating more mindfully?
First, you can identify which foods you crave often. If it’s chocolate, then find your favorite piece of chocolate, and take one small bite. Let this bite dissolve completely in your mouth – don’t chew and swallow right away, You want to get the entire essence of that food, the flavor, the mouthfeel and the joy that the chocolate instills in you. If you’d like to repeat – go ahead!
Second, find a food that represents one of the 6 flavors (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent, bitter). Salty, for example, could be a saltine cracker with sea salt. Do this same practice with every flavor to get a deep sense of every flavor, even if initially it may be repelling to you (like bitter!). Finally, Take time to make a meal for yourself, infusing the process with loving and joyful intention. Take time to sit down and eat this meal (and share it, too) and spend 30+ minutes enjoying and savoring the meal. Notice all of those individual flavors and how it feels in your body. Is it warming and nourishing like a big bowl of chili? Or is it savory and hearty like a pan of lasagna? Or maybe sweet and fresh like an crispy mandarine orange salad.
If you’d like to learn more about conscious eating and how to practice this, join in the upcoming class taught by Denise Dolan and myself on Thursday, October 30 from 6:30-8:00 in the Community Room. We will go through this process with you and start a community dialogue about the experience!
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com