Eat Here Now
To be mindful means to act with intention. To eat mindfully means to eat with intention. Every time you eat, pause a moment. Even close your eyes. What is your body feeling right now? Name what you feel. Acknowledge what you feel without judgment and take it in. What are you feeling emotionally, right now? Name your emotion. Acknowledge your emotion without judgment and take it in. Notice your breath. Breathe. Ask yourself:
- Am I hungry?
- What does my body want to eat?
- What does my body need to eat?
There are many answers to the question, Why am I eating right now? Be aware of your reasons for eating. Some of the reasons I eat are:
- Habit – I always eat at this time.
- Fuel – I am rushing to work, tennis, yoga, and need to eat something quick.
- Family – My family is eating a meal together.
- Desire – I opened the refrigerator and the grapes looked cold and sweet.
- Responsibility – No one else is going to eat it. So I better eat it instead of throwing it away.
- Chore – I am doing the dishes and my son left a big piece of gooey lasagna on his plate.
- Love – My daughter cooked it for me.
- Social Obligation – There is a birthday party in the office and I am expected to eat cake even though I don’t like stale flavorless store-bought cake.
- Temptation – The fresh homemade moist delicious cake is sitting on the counter with 1/3 of it left. I will just take another sliver. And another. And another.
- Emptiness – It distracts me from sadness, doing something I am avoiding, loneliness.
- Health – It makes me feel like I am doing something productive. And healthy!
- Hunger – I am hungry.
Make a decision about what to eat.
Establish a place to eat. Set your place. At a table. Eliminate distractions. Don’t read. Don’t eat at your desk, working. I know. You don’t have time. Neither do I – I eat at my desk most days. But let’s try to do it differently today. You and your nourishment deserve your time and your attention. Plus, you will feel more satisfied and eat less food if you pay attention and honor your self and your meal.
When you eat, eat slowly. Look at the food. Smell the food. Taste the food. Chew the food. Swallow the food. If you allot yourself a healthy amount of calories every day, then your food intake is limited. Enjoy it. Pause and ask yourself how your body feels. Are you still hungry? Does the food taste good? If the answer is no, stop. If the answer is yes, continue.
When you are finished, end the meal. Clean your place. Establish your next activity. Closure will create boundaries around meals, eliminating mindless eating and snacking and allow you to move your focus onto something else other than food.
I remember loving to eat orange slices as a child. I would stick them in my mouth making a funny orange grin with the peel. Then I would bite into the space between the peel and the fruit, the juice squirting into my mouth. I am reminded of this delight when I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s essay on eating a tangerine mindfully [Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Eating a Tangerine (p5)]. He cautions how easy it is to pop section after section into our mouth without tasting the fruit or finishing each bite. Eat each section before taking the next section.
Try eating a piece of fruit with your full attention and notice how delicious it is.