By Abbey Bronzati, BS, CPT
You eat every single day, but how often do you actually pay attention to what you are eating while you are eating it? Do you ever eat while watching TV? While reading a book? Do you usually eat while scrolling through Instagram? Can you scarf down a three-course meal in 12-minutes or less? It’s safe to say that we are all guilty of eating mindlessly some of the time.
Before we jump into the details of mindful eating let’s back up to the underlying concept of mindfulness. If you want more background information on mindfulness practices click here. To be mindful is to maintain a present-moment awareness by fully opening to what is happening in your present experience without judging or resisting it. Mindfulness allows us to cultivate a deep awareness and ability to relax more fully in the present moment. We tend to spend most of our headspace living in the future or the past; regretting a previous encounter, thinking about our task list, or what’s for dinner. Our minds can easily start to control our internal environment if we don’t take over the reins.
It is common for people to experience feelings of stress or anxiety surrounding food in one way or another. Culture and society often put pressure on both ends of the spectrum; if you don’t eat “well” enough it’s shameful, and if you don’t eat dessert at the dinner party you’re an obsessive prude. The stress response can also result in overeating, which can easily turn into a negative feedback loop of shame and stress. Taming your relationship with food can feel daunting and near impossible at times because it can seem hard to maintain control of. The act of eating is a basic instinct of survival and is deeply connected to our most primordial selves. Eating mindfully can help to ground our eating habits and reduce the stress response by redeeming, even elevating the more base qualities of our own nature.
Most of us believe that if we eat what we want, when we want it, we would eat dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the research tells us that when we eat mindfully that is not true. You have an innate desire to eat health-supportive foods that will nourish your body and support your wellbeing long term. Your body is on your team!
Think about what your eating habits were like as an infant. We all come into this world a mindful eater, only eating when hungry and stopping when full. The studies show that individuals who practice mindful eating have an increased preference for healthful foods and decreased preference for less health-supportive foods. Mindful eaters are also less likely to overeat as a response to negative emotions or stress. Taking control of your psychological relationship with food by becoming fully present to it as you eat is an accessible and powerfully healing practice that will change every aspect of your life for the better.
For a deeper dive into mindful eating as well as a short guided practice, grab something to eat and view the supplemental video below.
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Sources: “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Dr. Martha Davis and Dr. Matthew McKay. Photos taken from Pinterest. The brilliantly zen mind of Thomas McConkie, founder at Lower Lights School of Wisdom.