Mindful eating, or eating with awareness, is something you’ve probably heard of but may not know how to incorporate. “So I’m supposed to really think about chewing while I’m chewing, is that it?”
That was my impression, and it didn’t sound very appetizing. The thought of a once-pretty piece of food getting all chomped up and around in my mouth until it was soft enough to swallow didn’t exactly seem like art. The more I thought about the process of eating, the more gross it seemed. And this was supposed to help me enjoy my food more?!
It turns out the art of mindful eating really does work, I was just doing it all wrong.
Mindful eating doesn’t have to be about the act of eating; it can be about focusing on what you’re eating and how that food came to be. For me, it’s about expressing gratitude for your food (gratifood, if you like).
Here’s how it works: whenever you’re eating, just think about what you’re eating and where it came from. Be thankful. Think about and thank the cooperation of nature, people, and processes that had to occur in order for your food to reach you. Here are some simple examples to demonstrate.
You’re eating a bowl of cereal. You can picture the farmers in the wheat fields, the workers at the conveyor belts, the assembly line of packaging at the warehouse. You can think about the cow who produced the milk, the farmer who bottled it, the driver who brought it to the store, and the grocery clerk who stocked it in the refrigerator room. (I had a job once working back there; it’s really flipping cold!)
Now, let’s say, you’re having an apple. You can think about the tree that produced that apple, and the thousands of other apples on the thousands of beautiful trees it grew alongside in the orchard. You can think about the people who pick those apples, wash them, and deliver them to the store. If the sticker says Washington or some place faraway from where you are, you can think about the plane or boat ride that fruit had to take just to get to you.
When you think about all the work and time that went into a simple bowl of cereal, or that little apple that traveled so far, it’s pretty difficult not to be thankful. And when you’re thankful, everything tastes better. Take, for example, Thanksgiving dinner – does turkey ever taste better than on the day when we’re giving so much thanks?
When you appreciate what you’re eating it makes the colors brighter and the flavors bolder. It makes your body take time to receive the food more knowingly. It makes you mindful and aware.
Once you’ve mastered the art of mindful eating, you’ll probably begin making better and healthier choices. When you’re paying attention to what you choose to feed your body, you’ll have a heightened understanding of why your choices matter. You’ll naturally begin to crave fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. These are the foods upon which our bodies are pre-designed to receive, process, and thrive.
And yes, let them eat cake! I love desserts too. With mindful eating — with gratitude for the cocoa trees, the cows, the farmers, the packagers — a scoop of mocha almond ice cream tastes even more decadent than ever before. You can have a miniscule serving and be even more satisfied than if you were mindlessly shoveling it straight out of the carton, as I myself had been known to do…a lot!
BONUS TIP: Consider buying yourself some special little dessert bowls and dishes. Your “fancy cups” will complement the time and effort of everyone who made possible the deliciousness you get to enjoy.
Now is a great time to start bringing gratifood to your dining table. Just think about the story of your food – where it came from, how it was made, how far it traveled — and offer a silent “thank you” to everyone and everything that made it happen. That silent “thank you” will change your relationship with food for good.
Here’s to a healthier, happier, more mindful you! Bon appétit!