I don’t know whether to blame the media, or food companies and their propaganda, or the proliferation of fast food and junk foods, but an observation I have seen with my clients and people around me is that we have forgotten how to know what to eat.
There has become an over-reliance these days on diet books and crazy eating plans to tell us what to eat and when. If we are not following the advice of the latest fad diet, or trying to stick to a meal plan, it leads to mindlessly eating, as I talk about in this post on the dieting mentality. This might mean stuffing food into our mouths while on the go or when engaged in some other kind of activity, just for the sake of eating.
The pleasure of eating and enjoying food seems to have disappeared, so that instead of slowing sown to enjoy all there is about the food we will eat, we eat without even taking note of a single taste, smell, texture or other sensation. This in turn leaves us feeling unsatisfied and then looking for more to eat to meet the craving that hasn’t yet been met.
Our instincts have faded and are hiding so deeply within us that we have lost the ability to know what to eat for our bodies to be balanced and healthy, and we are feeling more confused than ever.
My clients come to me feeling off-balance, and totally at a loss about knowing what is good for them and what is not. We have lost the art of eating intuitively, of being able to tune into our body’s innate wisdom to know what to eat and when.
The good news is, it is totally possible to become a more mindful and conscious eater, but it does take practice and the need to focus in order for it to become a natural thing to do every time you eat.
To practice mindful eating, you need to explore the following while you eat. I recommend creating a space where you can totally relax in peace and quiet, without distractions (yep, that means turning off the TV and not being tempted to flick through a magazine!). I want you to devote all your attention to the food on your plate. Only then can you begin to tune in to how the food makes you feel when you eat it and start to tap back into the ancient wisdom that lies dormant within you. This activity should also be fun!
What do you see?
Look at your food and imagine you are a scientist from another planet and have never seen food as you know it before now. Look at your food carefully without naming it. Can you see the water, the rain, and the sunlight within the food? What does it look like to you?
What do you smell?
Bring the food up to your nose. Without naming the scent, experience smelling the food, and then describe what you smell.
What do you feel?
Now focus on what is going on in your mouth. Begin to notice that saliva is produced, even though you haven’t yet put the food in your mouth. Notice the mind/body phenomenon and how the senses respond to the anticipation of food being eaten.
What is the texture?
As the food move around your mouth and on your tongue, explore how the food feels. Without naming the sensation, just experience touching your food.
What is your experience?
How is it that your hand knows how to move the food directly to the lips? As you bring the food up to your mouth, notice what happens next. The mouth receives the food. Nothing goes into the mouth without it being received. And who or what is doing the receiving? The tongue. Observe what the tongue does with it. How does it get the food between the teeth? It’s amazing that the tongue is so skilled, and that such a remarkable muscle can actually receive food and then know what to do with it every time.
As you can see, you need to really engage with your food in a very intimate way. You don’t need to do this every time you eat, but start to spend time focussing on the sensations of eating as often as you can to make it into more of a habit.
If you find mindful eating difficult, remind yourself that your ancestors did not need a book to guide them of what to eat. It is within each and every one of us to be able to tap into our own body wisdom and to reclaim power over our thoughts, craving and actions around food. And when you can do that, it is much easier to overcome problems with self-control over what you eat- so it is totally worth giving mindful eating try.
Have you ever tried mindful eating? Where do you get most confused in your relationship with food? Share in the comments below!