Mindfully Me - Part 1
Steven Singleton, the Artís Collaborative culinary health expert, meal preparation guide, health coach, and owner of Mindfull Muscle will be contributing to the Artís Health & Wellness blog frequently. In this series, Steven will focus on mindfulness as a component of health starting with mindful eating practices. Bon appétit!
Tell me, what do you remember about your last meal . . .
What did it taste like?
Was it salty, sweet, or savory, bitter, spicy?
Was it hot or cold?
How did it make your mouth feel?
Did you scramble to find something to eat on your 30 minute lunch and just end up grabbing something at arms length?
Did you allow yourself to be in the moment and enjoy the process of reenergizing the mind and body? Or did you just inhale it?
Did your meal leave you feeling revitalized? Or did you feel sluggish?
This type of 'meal' is quite common in today’s go Go GO world. We have lost our connection to food and the sacred ritual of eating.
I have been guilty of this most my life. I was a chronic binge eater and lover of fast foods. This left me over weight and under nourished. The way I ate made me fat, sick and with feelings of depression and despair. At my heaviest I weighed almost 270lbs. I had chest pain, back pain, knee pain and would get winded walking long distances. I was only 29 years old and felt lost.
It wasn’t until I started to reevaluate my eating habits that I realized I had a problem and needed to make major change. I tried all the fad diets and nothing stuck. It wasn’t until I started to be mindful of the foods I was eating did I start to see a change in my life. The weight began to disappear. Without even realizing it I ditched all the junk food, replacing it with health foods that nurtured the body and tantalized my senses. I had added various textures (nuts and seeds) to my diet and was now listening to how these foods sounded as I chewed. I would use the most colorful fruits and vegetables in my meals, bringing vibrancy to my plate. My meal had been transformed into a score of color, tastes and texture. I felt like Beethoven; my food was my 9th symphony. My entire relationship with food had changed and I was eating better and tastier!) than ever
I'd like to share a few of the many benefits of mindful eating with you. Some of these practices may be more important than others for each individual, because we are all unique and have an equally unique relationship with food. Below, a bite-by-bite overview.
Benefits of eating mindfully
- Greater awareness and connection to the food we eat
- Better ability to gauge satiety/fullness
- Curbed tendency to binge eat
- Reduction of stress levels, leading to better fat metabolism
- Improved digestion of food, vitamins, nutrients
- Food tastes better!
- Appreciation for the moments spent eating
- Deep realization of how the food eaten affects the mind, body, and spirit
Being mindful bite by bite: a how-to guide
First, slow down. Focus on the sensation of eating. Ask yourself:
- What does your food look like visually?
- What kind of plate is it on? Is it a flat white dinner plate or does it have designs on it?
- Is it a to-go container or your favorite Pyrex?
- How was it cooked? Was it grilled, pan sautéed, fried or is it raw?
- What noises do your utensils make as cut into your food?
- Pay close attention to the texture and the temperature, is it hot, cold or tepid?
- What does it taste like? Is it savory?
- What sound does it make as you chew?
- While you chew each bite, put your fork down and focus on the act of eating.
- How did this food get to your plate?
- What processes occurred for the foods your are tasting to be a part of this meal?
Think of everyone and everything that made it possible to have this sensation right now.
Bask in the wonder of the experience.
Give thanks for this moment and the luxury and enjoyment of this meal.
When you are done with that bite and have finished swallowing, you should then pick up you fork and take your next bite. Thoughts will come and go in your mind but allow them to leave just as quickly as they came. Return your focus back to the food you have before you.
Repeat the process for the duration of the meal, spanning it out over 20 minutes.
At first it will seem forced and unnatural, I know. So start by doing this practice a few times a week then gradually bring it into your daily life.
There is no need to rush.
Eating mindfully is a gradual progression of self-acceptance and purposeful practice. Quite simply, mindful eating brings to focus to what we are putting in our bodies and enables an awareness of the sensations that arise from the act of eating.
Eating mindfully is a form of meditation that can be practiced anytime and anywhere, a reintroduction of the magic of eating. Give each meal (and the food on your plate) the respect it deserves.