Mindfulness has become such a buzzword that hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear it applied to something new; mindful gardening, mindful flossing... Yet its increasing popularity gives us some insight into the impressive benefits it offers. The way we approach food and eating can have a profound effect on our overall health and happiness. After all, the way we eat is one of the most basic ways we care for ourselves, and we’re confronted with food choices several times a day. Mindful eating — being fully present and non-judgemental around our eating — is a total game changer. It allows us to pause, focus on our body’s unique hunger signals, and ask ourselves what would make our body feel satisfied and energized. It is the ultimate in self-care. And self-care is vitally important for keeping our minds and bodies working well in the second half of life.
Yet we often miss this wonderful opportunity to reboot, rest and recharge. Instead of taking a well-deserved break as we eat, we’re trying to catch up on the latest celebrity gossip, and order shoes online. Even though we know by now that multi-tasking means we do several things poorly because our brain doesn’t like to split attention, this is the way most of us live. But I’m going to make a prediction; if you insert just a few rest stops into your day — and eating is the natural time to do it — you will feel more balanced and well overall. And you will feel healthier, both in body and spirit.
Of course, food and eating are tricky subjects, particularly for women. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most women reading this are focused more on losing weight, not using eating as a way to bring some calm and revitalization to their day. Indeed, in my experience as a therapist specializing in food and body issues, it is clear that many of us could benefit from a new relationship with food. Over focus on weight loss is a terrible waste of our limited time and resources. It takes precious energy away from our creative pursuits. Over focus on weight loss also makes us boring and self-focused. And then there’s the little problem that diets have a 95% failure rate. Better to focus on overall health and how we want to spend our time here on earth. Mindful eating does just that.
Imagine how your life would change if you used eating as an opportunity to care for yourself, nourish your body, and take a well-deserved rest? What if it was an opportunity to bring some pleasure into your day? Ask your body what whole foods would make it feel more energized and satisfied? And you don’t need to look at your friend’s plate. Everyone has different bodies and different nutritional needs, as well as different preferences.
Here are 3 simple ways to practice mindful eating on the go:
- Use snack or mealtime as an opportunity for a little break, sneak in time for satisfaction, and even delight. Look at your food and appreciate the colors, textures and flavors. Get curious about where all of these foods come from.
- Even sipping your coffee or tea with your full attention makes it more satisfying and more relaxing. It’s a whole different experience preparing your tea with intention and care. Compare this to drinking your drive-through beverage in the car with the radio on.
- Make sure you are breathing into your abdomen and taking a moment to just be present. Imagine that your only job in that moment is to rest and enjoy your food. Your body loves getting a good dose of oxygen. You will digest your food better, and feel calmer overall.
Even if you can only take one mindful sip of coffee in the morning, and the rest of the day is a blur, give that time to yourself as a gift.
Nicole Christina, LCSW
is a psychotherapist, professional blogger, and host of the acclaimed Podcast Zestful Aging. Nicole interviews inspiring woman about their projects, as well as their own metamorphosis as they age. She also presents on topics related to aging well, and has recently taught at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Syracuse University and OASIS. Her online course, Zestful Aging; Simple and Sustainable Habits for Health and Longevity, can be found at NicoleChristina.com.