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8 Mindful Eating Musts for Physical and Emotional Health

March 6, 2014

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How is your relationship with food? No matter the answer, you’re going to spend a substantial portion of your life preparing, eating, and thinking about your meals, so it’s in your best interest to devote time to maintaining and improving this relationship.

We all know the expression “you are what you eat,” but it’s becoming increasingly clear that you are also the way that you feel about what you eat. If you’re not happy with something in your life, be it your physical health, mental clarity, or body image, you may be surprised to learn that both Western medical science and world spiritual leaders agree on one counterintuitive point: the solution could lie less in what you are eating than in how you are eating it. No matter the nutritional content of a meal, one that is fully experienced in a spirit of joy and gratitude will provide better nourishment than a meal forced or consumed absent-mindedly. After all, the human body is an amazing piece of engineering, able to convert food into energy, vitality, and strength, and it does this best when your mind and body are working together.

Eating mindfully at each meal is a form of self-care, and should be approached in the same manner as a regular meditation practice. Treat the powering of your body with attentive kindness. You are the steward of your body, and should attend to your responsibility with love and respect.

Follow these 8 tips to increase mindfulness around meals:

1. Be grateful. Start each meal with thankfulness for all the people, plants, and animals that participated in creating your meal. Spend a little time picturing where the components of your meal actually came from. Reflect on all the things that had to happen to make this meal possible.

2. Slow down. Make each bite a little slower. Mindfulness helps you enjoy and digest your food and sends satiety cues to the body, which helps you to eat only as much as you need and feel satisfied throughout your day. Your body is full of wisdom if you know how to listen.

3. Observe. Note your thoughts during mealtime. Just note them. Don’t try to suppress or direct them. Note how many critical thoughts emerge about yourself and others, but don’t feel the need to act on or judge them. You can address them later—for now, just pay attention.

4. Eat your words. Be aware of how what you say can linger in the minds of others. At meals, speaking about body issues or expressing judgment about food may be harmful for someone who is struggling with their own relationship with food. On a broader scope, negative or hurtful words spoken at mealtime can have a harsher impact than if they were brought up in a different circumstance. Think before you speak.

5. Stop multitasking. When it comes to eating, meditation, and other important areas of your life, practice being 100 percent present in what you are doing. You’ll be amazed at how your relationships improve and your enjoyment of life blooms.

6. Invite all your senses to the table. Smell your meal and revel in the different scents. Listen to the sounds involved in preparing the food. Chew slowly enough to savor the taste and texture of each morsel. You will develop keener senses and a greater appreciation for real food that better nourishes your body.

7. Check your internal hunger scale. In modern society, many people don’t know what true hunger feels like or what it means to eat just to point of being satisfied. Explore the different extremes of your hunger range, from “Must eat” to “Over-stuffed,” and check in with your hunger scale throughout the day, especially during meals.

8. Create the right environment. Take a look at your surroundings before you sit down to eat. Are they conducive to relaxation and calm digestion? Do you feel comfortable, both physically and mentally? Are there potential distractions or disruptions? Do what you can to make your eating space as peaceful as possible.

Do you practice mindful eating? What strategies do you use to help you stay in the moment at mealtimes? Share with us in the comments below!