Monday, April 16, 2012

Mindful Eating…

Life is hectic.  We live in a world of fast food, quick dinners, and eating in the car on the way somewhere.  We’re on autopilot, when it comes to what we eat, and HOW we eat.  We chow down, eating in mere minutes.  Did we even taste the food we so lovingly prepared?  Or did we get down to business and move on to the next daily chore?
Mindfulness.  Sounds beautiful, but what is it really?  Mindfulness meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally.”  I strive toward this daily.  In my relationships, my parenting, my yoga practice, my art.  I struggle with it daily as well. 

Recently, I’ve heard a lot about mindful eating.  Simply, this is applying basic mindfulness meditation techniques to your eating habits.  Eliminating all distractions, focusing on the present moment and experiencing your food completely.  Through this practice, you can cultivate deeper knowledge of your relationship with food, and work toward establishing healthier choices and habits.   

Try this experiment in mindful eating.  If your mind wanders at anytime, simply let your awareness rest on the breath.  

Choose a piece of fruit.  I like to use a clementine or orange, but you can do this with any food.  Place the fruit on the table.  Sit in your chair and take a few full, deep breaths.  Become aware of any sensations in your body, without judgment.  Next, bring your awareness to any sensations in your mind, the thoughts or worries on constant cycle, again without judgment.  Finally, become aware of your breath and how it feels moving through your body.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Smile.       

Hold the fruit in your hands.  Let your senses experience the fruit.  Feel the texture of the peel.  How does it feel against your skin?  Is the fruit warm or cool?  Is it heavy or light?  Notice the color, the shape, the imperfections that make up the beauty and wonder of this nourishing gift of the Earth. 

Begin to peel the fruit.  Listen to the gentle tear as the peel is pulled from the flesh.  Smell the citrus essence.  Feel the soft tenderness of the exposed treasure.  Begin to section the fruit, taking the first piece and placing the rest of the fruit back on the table.  Eat the first piece, chewing slowly and consciously.  Close your eyes and taste the juicy sweetness.  Be present.  Once the first piece is eaten, thoughtfully take the next piece, repeating the above process until the fruit is finished. 

Now, sit in your chair and let your awareness rest on your breath.  Check in with the sensations present in your body, mind, and breath.  Are you full?  Are you calm?  Are your thoughts and worries re-entering your mind?  Are you itching to get on with your day? 

There is no right or wrong way to feel after the practice.  It’s a practice because you are working toward something.  Mindfulness.  And it does indeed take practice.  Make your practice fun.  Smile, laugh, enjoy.  You can practice alone or with your family.  With others, especially children, make it less formal, let laughter, conversation, silliness or whatever comes be with you at the table.  Prompt each other with questions about how the food feels, what they taste, see and smell.  

This may seem like a long process; different from the way we typically eat.  How can this be done within our crazy lives?  Simplify the practice!  Turn off your cell, close the laptop and your book, put your work away, if there are others eating with you be fully present with them as you talk.  Change your perspective.  Don’t look at it as a long, boring meal, think of it as a ritual.  After all, our body is a temple.  


Linda Nutter Snay

Linda is a Yoga instructor, mom, artist, wife, friend. Check out her yoga FB page.

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