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The 7 Practices Of Mindful Eating

How often have you eaten on the run or tried to eat while you are reading, talking on the phone etc? I know I am guilty of having done those things.

In recent years, I’ve learned to respect food more and make every meal a ritual of sorts. For this, I must give credit to José. Since most often the food is prepared by either one or both of us, eating and enjoying it together is important.

Some years ago, I read about the whole concept of mindful eating. This has its roots in Buddhism. Disciples of Buddhism are encouraged to try various forms of meditation – focusing on their breathing, or meditating in different postures while sitting, standing or walking. Similarly they are encouraged to meditate while eating. This creates more consciousness about what they are eating and to focus on the present moment.

However this practice has received  secular attention too. Experts say that when we focus on what we are eating and savour each morsel, the food not only tastes better but we eat less and more healthy too. Binge eating, comfort eating and overeating can all be prevented by us becoming more conscious of what we eat, when we eat and why we eat when we do!

Dr Lillian Cheung, Lecturer and Director of Health Promotion & Communication at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition, has dedicated herself to promoting this concept. She co-authored with the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh to write Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves. That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?’
~ Dr Lillian Cheung

So what are the practices of mindful eating?

Often, those of us who are privileged, take food for granted. We don’t take time to recall where the food is coming from – all the work that went into getting it onto our plate.  This is especially true when we eat packaged food.  I’ve realized, from my own experience, that when I make food from scratch I enjoy it so much more. It’s important for us to take time to prepare our own meals and preferably from fresh ingredients. We must learn to honour the food we eat.

I would also like to add that it’s important to say a word of thanks to God and the Universe recalling to your mind all the hands that toiled to get that food on your plate – starting from the farmers and moving up the whole cycle. A word of thanks to the person who prepared it too is important.

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I particularly recall an episode of the Kylie Kwong Show in which shetravels to Shandong, the homeland of Confucius. This master of philosophy is also considered the father of Chinese culinary arts. I was amazed at how important Confucius considered the preparation and presentation of food. He said that colour, aroma, flavour and texture are most important in food. We are encouraged to engage all the senses when eating. Although it’s considered bad manners, I love to smell food before eating it.  Do you?

It is suggested that that we use smaller plates to eat – the larger the plate, the more you eat. Being aware of the serving size helps us not to overeat.

We tend to serve ourselves more when we are distracted. Therefore, it’s important that we don’t  multi-task – when you eat, you eat. 🙂

Chewing food leads to better digestion and assimilation of the nutrients in our food. This is because when we chew our food properly, digestive enzymes are released that help in the absorption of nutrients. We are advised to chew 20-30 times before we swallow. One good practice is to lay down the fork/spoon between mouthfuls.

It is important to signal the end of a meal to oneself by getting up from the table and clearing it. In a restaurant, we could request the waiter to clear our plate. When we hang around unfinished food, there’s a tendency to keep eating. Sometimes, not having good ways to store food, makes us eat to finish it, thus leading to overeating.

Finally, after we have eaten, we should become aware of how the food we ate makes us feel. Some foods make us feel energetic, some make us feel thirsty, others puffed up. All these are signals of the food choices we should make in the future.

Even as I write this post, I’m becoming more aware of how much more I have to incorporate the practices of mindful eating into my life.  Do you practice mindful eating?

 

 

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013.

Write Tribe

 

Photo Credit: bass_nroll via Compfight cc

102 Comments

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  3. Usha Pisharody Usha Pisharody September 5, 2013

    Wonderful post, Corinne! What I needed to read, right now. Have been an irregular ‘eater’, to put it in bad grammar – a bad habit gets bad grammar!
    I definitely need to practise better and healthy eating habits; and this one inspires me to do so! Thank you!
    Usha Pisharody recently posted..A Teacher IsMy Profile

  4. Amit Amit September 4, 2013

    I never eat in a hurry unless the food is really bad and I have to gulp it down. I like tasting each and every morsel.
    I seem to be doing the right thing. 🙂

  5. Proactive Indian Proactive Indian September 4, 2013

    Superb post! Very timely in my case. Resolved to try not to slip into ‘unmindful eating’ as I keep doing every now and then!
    We tend to take the words “eat to live” too seriously, with the result that a meal is treated as a chore.
    It’s common to see people eat ‘whatever they can, whenever they can, wherever they can and howsoever they can’, especially at lunch on a working day. This is seen as a sign of dedication to work!
    Proactive Indian recently posted..Is this how a bank should treat a customer?My Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      You have hit the nail on the head. Yes, the ‘eat to live’ philosophy have been carried to extremes and a meal is indeed treated as a chore. Especially when at work. And probably cited during annual appraisals.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..7 Reasons Why I Love My DogMy Profile

  6. B k chowla B k chowla September 3, 2013

    I dont know if it is mindful eating.I eat three meals a day and have never ever eaten anything in between meals
    B k chowla recently posted..CASUAL LEAVEMy Profile

  7. Jessica Jessica September 3, 2013

    Great article! I always make it so that the first two or three minutes of my meal with my kids are in silence. I tell them it’s important to actually taste our food! So true in that we usually become distracted by so many things-tv’s ,conversations, our own thoughts, that we can eat an entire meal and hardly remember it, often over eating in the process. I also find that eating mindfully really starts to begin to cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude and awareness of what it took for whatever is on our plate to get there.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      Yes, mindless eating is the main reason for overeating. And I quite like the idea of keeping silent for the first two or three minutes of the meal. I must try it out.

  8. Melissa Melissa September 3, 2013

    Thank you for the reminder ~ I’m taking care of my stomach so I do practice it more often now than before. I do smell the food before eating it 😛 I admire the art that was practiced on the food and I enjoy tasting the different flavors and how they blend 😀

    Slowly, mindfully thanking the one who cooked it and who took part in making the food.

    *I learned this from my Ignatian retreat.

    Thank you for sharing this post ~ it’s a continuous reminder for me to stop and enjoy the food 🙂
    Melissa recently posted..Fall In Love: A Peek into the Hidden LifeMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      Melissa, great to know that you are already a practitioner of mindful eating. The Jesuits have incorporated many practices from the East whilst conducting Ignatian retreats and I guess this is one of them.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..7 Reasons Why I Love My DogMy Profile

  9. Jeevan Jacob John Jeevan Jacob John September 2, 2013

    Hey Corinne,

    I haven’t quite practiced mindful eating, but I have done something similar. I have tried clearing my mind and focusing on one particular task: observation (I am working on my observation and analyses skills – I observe how other people eat, how they behave, their habits).

    But, after reading this post, I think I should keep that activity for later 😀 I am actually guilty of many things mentioned in the post. Usually, I am distracted while eating (I like to read something while I eat).

    I do like smelling my food though 😀 It’s is weird, but I like it. Why not engage our senses? Don’t just eat for the sake of living (and of course, don’t live for the sake of eating :D).

    I do love experimenting with new ideas, and this one seems to deserve experimenting with. I will try practicing mindful eating. Thanks for the tips, Corinne!

  10. Martha Orlando Martha Orlando September 2, 2013

    Great advice, Corinne! Yes, we pretty much practice mindful eating at our house. It does mean so much more when we take time to savor and enjoy, not gobble down our food. And, we always, always give thanks.
    Blessings, my friend!
    Martha Orlando recently posted..Disconnect to ReconnectMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      Martha, its good to know that you practice mindful eating as a family. Yes, giving thanks is so very integral to the practice.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..7 Reasons Why I Love My DogMy Profile

  11. Sulekha Sulekha September 2, 2013

    Corinne, your post is about something I am doing write now and seeing the results of practicing mindful eating. We do tend to multitask while eating and miss out on this beautiful process.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      Sulekha, good to know that you are already experiencing the benefits of mindful eating. I am sure that it will become a regular practice.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..7 Reasons Why I Love My DogMy Profile

  12. G Angela G Angela September 2, 2013

    well presented corinne, agreed with everything you stated, I did start mindful eating, even made some very positive changes to eat at the table and be grateful for the persons who made it, over a period I lost into multitasking, this post is a reminder for me to get back to mindful eating… thanks for sharing !!
    G Angela recently posted..SEVEN THINGS I CHERISH THE MOSTMy Profile

  13. Raj Raj September 2, 2013

    These is such a great post. Last year I forced myself to sit for 20 minutes everyday at lunch and pay attention to what I was eating, in silence. It was hard! At first I was anxious without my phone or a book to flip through – but slowly it became the best part of my day. Now I can’t wait for the kids to go back to school so I can start the practice again.
    Raj recently posted..What to Wear: When You Don’t Want to Say the “F” WordMy Profile

  14. sunita sunita September 2, 2013

    What an informative post Corrine! I need to think about what i eat as i am a lazy eater 🙂 Never gave importance to food.What next? waiting waiting waiting 🙂

  15. Sayantini Bhattacharya Sayantini Bhattacharya September 1, 2013

    Hi, Corinne, this post is so enriched. I think food has a direct connection with spirituality. Though we lead a tough life everyday, we shouldn’t ignore two things, to have our meals with the entire family and the other is mindful eating. Thanks for reminding us 🙂
    Sayantini Bhattacharya recently posted..Seven Things You Can’t AvoidMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      I agree. Food does have a direct link with spirituality. However, whilst chasing our tails, we forget this and eat on the run, sometimes alone.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..7 Reasons Why I Love My DogMy Profile

  16. Ruchira Ruchira September 1, 2013

    Loved your insight into mindful eating, Corrine.

    I agree gratitude is an important factor and that also helps nullifying any toxins in the food thus, making it organic 🙂

    Looking fwd to your series of posts 🙂
    Ruchira recently posted..Music into WordsMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      Never realised that gratitude also helps neutralise toxins in the food and makes it organic. But yes, without gratitude, a meal can never be mindful, in the real sense of the work. No matter how much each morsel is savored.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..7 Reasons Why I Love My DogMy Profile

  17. Laurel (Dawn Storey) Laurel (Dawn Storey) September 1, 2013

    I SO need to learn to practice mindful eating! I rush through my meals far too quickly – partly because I’m hungry, but mostly because I want to move on to whatever’s happening next. I need to learn that the meal itself, and taking time to appreciate and savour it, is just as important as the next item in the day’s schedule. Thank you for this insightful post.
    Laurel (Dawn Storey) recently posted..From dreams to realityMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      Somehow, we tend to feel that food is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Like refueling the car. Actually, eating mindfully tends to help us pace our lives and achieve more.
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  18. vishalbheeroo vishalbheeroo September 1, 2013

    Thanks for this enlightning post on eating. I have the bad habit of eating in a hurry and will do it tonight only. Eat slowly and enjoy as well as respect the food and the brain behind the food, here Mom:)

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 4, 2013

      I am quite sure your mom will be very happy to see you relishing the food that she has cooked. Nothing can make person preparing the food happier than seeing someone savoring a dish.
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  19. Naina Madan Naina Madan September 1, 2013

    I so agree with the concept of mindful eating. The meals I have while talking on the phone or watching TV, I don’t know where they go because I get hungry soon after!
    I have started taking about 20 minutes and kind of enjoying every bite than just gulping it all down in flat 5 minutes, which I used to do earlier!

  20. Roshni Roshni September 1, 2013

    These are wonderful tips! I appreciate what you said about being thankful for the food in front of you! Too many people take that for granted!
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  21. Radha Radha September 1, 2013

    Somehow I feel that our ancestors were better off without all the science and technology. It would be great if the concepts of praying before you eat, and of Satva, Rajas and Tamas. Sigh!
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    • Corinne Rodrigues