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Mindful eating? Who has time for that in our fast-paced, stressed-out world. Many of us rarely sit down for meals—or even get out of the car. It’s a problem that crops up even on “food holidays” like Thanksgiving, where sitting down at the table with the family often seems like a race to see who can finish first and get back to the TV for the football game.
But it doesn’t have to be that way—indeed, it shouldn’t be that way, says Robert Kiltz, MD, author of Living Your Best Life: How to Think, Eat, and Connect Your Way to a Better Flow. Here, he shares six tips on mindful eating from the book to help us take our time, reconnect with our food, and experience healthier mealtimes for body and soul.
1. Slow Down
At its most basic, mindful eating is about taking your time to chew and enjoy your meal. Sit down and allow your senses to take over. How does the meal smell, taste, and feel? Make mealtime a tactile experience and don’t rush to eat. Stay in the moment with your meal. If you find your thoughts drifting away from your meal and towards what you have to do next, gently bring your focus back. Notice the smells; savor the taste and texture in your mouth. Bringing the focus to the present moment while you eat will help you slow down and enjoy your food. This connection also helps you appreciate your food and creates a positive vibrational frequency, which results in happier mealtimes.
2. Say Thank You
You don’t have to be religious to say grace before a meal. Simply saying thank you for this abundant meal and respecting the source from which it came is an empowering way to connect to your food and eat more mindfully. Thank the farmers who grew your vegetables or raised your cattle. Think about everything that your food has gone through before arriving on your plate, and take a moment to appreciate and respect that process. Saying thank you will fill you with abundant joy and love, giving you a greater connection to the universe and your food.
3. Avoid Multitasking at Mealtimes
Mindful eating means putting down your mobile phone, switching off the television, and closing your laptop while you’re eating. When you are distracted, you cannot consciously eat your meal and enjoy it in the same way that you can when you’re solely focused on it. Avoid engaging in activities that are distracting or noisy while you eat, and seek some solitude with your food. If you’re dining with your family or loved ones, focus on sharing the experience of the meal with them. Talk about the taste, texture, and smell.
4. Find the Joy in Your Food
We focus so much on what we shouldn’t eat that we often get stressed or anxious at mealtimes, because we have created a negative association with our food. This negative association ends up being the reason we do not enjoy our meals because instead of focusing on the experience of the food, we are focused only on what we are not allowed to consume. We think about all of the things we cannot eat or shouldn’t eat and then reach for something healthier, not because we choose that food, but because we’re acting on conflicting motivations.
To eat more mindfully, seek out the joy in your food. If you’re at the stage where you don’t feel good about eating healthy because you feel deprived, try branching out and experiencing varying types of healthy options until you find something that you really enjoy. Enjoying food is as much about taste as it is about the way it makes you feel. Unhealthy food may make you feel happy while you’re eating it, but shortly afterward, you’re likely to feel tired, sick, or sluggish. This isn’t the case with healthy food. Fresh food makes us feel alive and creates an inner vibration of wellness.
Don’t focus on what you can’t or shouldn’t eat. That’s not the way to look at it. Instead, think about the world of options that are available to you and how those things resonate with your being. Experience the joy in the food that you eat and experiment with different types of vegetables and ingredients until you find something that makes your body, mind, and spirit feel harmonious. When experimenting with food, notice all of the flavors and textures—truly allow yourself to stay in the moment with your meal. Don’t be afraid to try new things, even when they’re outside your comfort zone. Experience the joy in your food by eating the things that make you feel happy and connected to your spirit.
5. Trust Your Intuition
Mindful eating involves connecting with your food—and also yourself. When it comes to your diet, trust your intuition. Your higher self knows what’s best for you, and you will have a sense when you eat something if your body likes it or not. it may seem like common sense, but sometimes you have to listen to the cues your body provides.
Don’t keep trying to eat something just because it’s good for you. It’s okay if you don’t like certain foods. Move on to something else. Healthy eating provides us with a world of opportunity; it’s not just about salads and nuts. There are many great websites that can help you find easy and delicious recipes using ingredients you love. Listen to the inner wisdom of your body to guide you with your eating. If you feel bad about eating something , it may be your body trying to tell you to reach for a healthier alternative.
When we look after our homes and our cars, we spend a lot of time finding out what the problem is, asking questions, and getting to the core of the matter. But too often, we take our bodies for granted and spend our lives treating symptoms that would disappear if we were to eat and nourish our body the way it really needs to be nourished. Our hospitals and waiting rooms are packed with people seeking help for physical symptoms related to poor eating choices. Type 2 Diabetes, for example, is a direct result of a poor diet. It has been said that our bodies contain everything they need to repair and heal themselves, so long as they are properly nourished.
Follow your intuition and lead your body to a place of higher vibration by eating food from the earth that is plant-based and high in nutrition. And pay attention to how your body responds when you allow yourself the luxury of eating this way.
6. Food and Sharing
Have you ever noticed the way you feel when you’re sitting around a dinner table with good friends or family while sharing an incredible home-cooked meal? Sharing in the experience of a meal is a great way to connect with your food and enhance the experience by enjoying it with others. Our hearts expand and our spirits soar when we share and give to others, and there is no greater gift than a home-cooked meal prepared with love and attention.
When you go to a fast-food restaurant, the experience of sharing a burger and fries with your family isn’t the same as having a picnic that you have prepared yourself. The energy that you bring to the food when you prepare it, cooked or not, is paramount to the experience of sharing a meal. Your intention when you cook for others is to make them happy and fulfilled. That intention carries such a positive vibration that it permeates through the food and into the people who ingest it.
This is why the experience of sitting down to a meal with family is very different than going out to a fast-food restaurant. Have you ever noticed that you can taste the passion of a chef at a really great restaurant? The food tastes brilliant because they love what they do and they love to share that passion with others.
Making the Move to Mindful Eating
To eat more mindfully, consider all of the ways in which you interact with food. What is your relationship like currently? How can you improve the experience of eating and enjoying your meals? We all eat on a daily basis and go through our days getting hungry, eating, and drinking. Mindful eating can completely change the way we feel about our meals, bringing us to a place of light and love.
Food is a spiritual experience, and your relationship to food should be one of respect, appreciation, and enjoyment. Healthy eating isn’t meant to be miserable. In fact, it should be the opposite. Healthy eating should make you feel amazing and uplifted; it gives you the energy and vitality you need to be more and do more. Your higher self only wants the best for you, and eating a diet that’s loaded with fat, carbohydrates, sugar, and sodium only takes away from your quality of life. Your body knows this, and repeatedly attempts to communicate this to you when you mistreat it.
We’re getting better as a society at placing a greater emphasis on locally grown produce, gardening, and clean food. Our collective consciousness has been rising, as have our standards for what we’re willing to accept in our lives. Every time we visit our grocery stores, we have choices to make. We can buy locally grown organic produce, or we can buy vegetables that have been traveling on trucks for days. Similarly, we can buy meat that is born from unhealthy conditions and negative karma, or we can buy meat produced ethically, where the animals actually get to enjoy their lives and feel good. All of these choices contribute to more mindful ways of eating.
When you head out to the store to buy your groceries, think about every item that you put into your cart. If you’re unsure about something, ask. Know what you’re putting into your body. It is your right and your responsibility to know this, and it is one of the best things you can do to honor and love yourself, ensuring a long and healthy life.