Multitasking and overscheduling have turned our meals into a race. Eating should be a conscious, mindful experience, though often we do not treat it as such.
For too many of us, multitasking and overscheduling turn our meals into a race against the clock. But rushing through a meal disconnects us from our food and brings on digestive discomforts.
Eating should be a pleasurable, mindful experience, though often we do not treat it as such. Noshing on salted nuts in front of the computer at work, chewing on a chocolate bar en route to a meeting—sound familiar?
Although it may not be possible for us to sit and slow down for every meal of the day, when we do have the opportunity, we can employ a few simple techniques that can bring more peace and enjoyment to our eating to nourish both body
Begin with a clean slate
When you prepare your meal, start with a clean space. A clutter-free workspace promotes a calmer, more enjoyable cooking atmosphere. Then, clean as you go. As you finish one phase of cooking, do some tidying and cleaning of the prep area.
Sometimes it is helpful to do much of your prep earlier in the day if your dinner hour is typically chaotic. You can then simply settle into the actual cooking rather than fussing with chopping, cleaning, and sorting.
Cleaning as you go also carries over to the dining experience. Simply knowing that there isn’t a mountain of scraps, dishes, and pots to clean after the meal will bring more relaxation and enjoyment to the meal itself.
Tune out so you can tune in
This is the time to turn off the TV, cell phones, video games, and any other gadgets or toys that might distract. Make dinner a time that you focus on the meal in front of you and the people around you.
If you have children, it is also helpful not to have toys at the table—otherwise, mealtime becomes playtime.
And unless you are expecting a very important phone call, why not make it a house rule to not answer your home phone during dinner hour? Most often the call will not be urgent, and can surely be returned within the hour after everyone has enjoyed their meal.
Breathe and give thanks
Before picking up a utensil or doing anything else at the table, stop and breathe. Just sit in your chair, be silent, and take one or two deep belly breaths. Doing so only takes a few moments and creates a noticeable calming influence.
After those relaxing breaths, give thanks for something you are grateful for. Whether it’s for the roof over your head or the stranger who paid for your coffee when you forgot your wallet, expressing thanks can be spiritually nourishing.
Include more whole foods on your plate
Foods such as salads topped with nuts or seeds, vegetables that are cooked until al dente, whole grains, and beans take longer to chew than more refined and prepared foods such as white bread, cheeses, dips, and creams. All of this chewing takes time, which is a good thing when you are trying to slow down while eating.
In addition, whole foods invite all of your senses to the table by offering a range of colors, textures, and flavours. From fragrant fresh herbs, brightly coloured leafy greens, and juicy bell peppers to crunchy seeds, tender beans, and comforting grains, these foods can be combined on your plate to heighten the sensory experience of eating.
Bring the best of nature to your table, and you will notice yourself delighting in not just the taste of the food, but also the smell, look, and feel of the ingredients on your plate.
How do you want to feel after you eat? Stuffed, or happily satiated? Uncomfortable with indigestion, or relaxed with a settled stomach? Even though we know the answers, in the moment of eating we sometimes lose ourselves in our hunger.
Try to keep in mind how you want to feel after you’ve eaten. This will encourage you to chew more thoroughly, eat slower, and not overeat (especially the richer, fattier foods).
A couple of tips might help you:
- Chew and swallow everything in your mouth before raising your fork with another bite of food. This will help you eat more slowly and swallow less air while eating (which can lead to bloating).
- When eating a meal, keep in mind the Okinawan principle of Hara Hachi Bu, which means “eat until you are 80 percent full.” Since it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal our brain that we are full, give your body time to communicate this message. Practise eating until you are just about 80 percent full so that later you do not feel uncomfortably stuffed!
Eating can be just another thing you have to do in the day, or it can be a pleasurable experience that nourishes you physically and spiritually. Don’t confuse being full with being satisfied. Consider these tips the next time you sit down for a meal and understand what it means to feel wholly satisfied.
|Tips to help children develop mindful eating practices