Why is mindful eating good for you?
Mindful eating is important for your overall well being, because ideally you want to be fully present when you eat. In doing so, you can appreciate your food by taking the time to really ‘make a meal’ of it! This is a fantastic way to bring gratitude and mindfulness into your daily life and eliminate the chances of over indulging. By eating mindfully you will promote better digestion, healthier eating habits, regulate your appetite and enjoy your food much more.
The way in which you can achieve this is by eating with your senses and really taking the time to smell the ingredients on your plate, notice the vibrant colours of your food and taste the delicious flavours and different textures. This way you are experiencing all your meals through your physical and emotional senses and immersing yourself in every aspect of this experience.
How to get started with mindful eating
In the Middle Eastern culture which I have grown up in, it is very common to sit around the table and enjoy meals surrounded by friends and family. Usually, our dishes take up to a whole day to prepare therefore we like to make it a celebration and food is often seen as an expression of love.
In places like Iran, where both my parents are from, clubs and bars no longer exist like they do in other parts of the world so typically a night out is spent indoors at a relatives or friends home sharing stories, singing and dancing while food is being served. In the old days, Persian families would lay out a “sofreh”. Traditionally, this is a cloth the food is served on, either on the floor or a table. The elders in the family would make bite sized mouthfuls and feed the children by hand. This truly enhances our eating experience and again shows our love for one another.
Buddhism practices mindful eating through the belief that it engages all parts of our mind, body and heart. Being fully conscious of what you are eating, how it tastes and feels in your mouth as well as the scents and different colours is how they practice eating mindfully. We can learn a lot from other cultures and the way they approach eating as a mindful practice. They wholeheartedly set time aside to be fully present, enjoy their meals with loved ones and leave distractions like mobile phones, laptops and TVs aside.
How to get started with mindful eating
If you would like to start eating more mindfully, you can begin this experience when you are doing your food shopping. Don’t be in a hurry to get in and get out of the supermarket, instead look at the produce and take the time to notice how you feel when you pick something up. This will lead you to choose your food wisely. What do those bright red strawberries smell like? How does the skin of that pineapple feel against your fingertips? Are those tomatoes soft or firm? Where did those apples come from? Will you be more satisfied with a pre-packed sandwich from your local corner shop or something you prepared at home yourself? Be mindful of the temperature of your food and how it feels when you are eating it. Perhaps a nice warming soup will nourish your soul on a cold winter's day rather than a raw salad. This is the first step to eating mindfully and being aware of what you are going to take home with you to eat.
Once you start to prepare your meals, be present, take your time and taste what you are preparing, smell the fragrances as you chop up your ingredients and think about what would taste nice together.
Finally, when you sit down to eat, switch off the TV, put your phone aside and close the laptop! Realistically, it won’t take you any longer than 15-20 minutes to finish a meal. After all, you have spent your precious time and energy making it, why not take the time to ENJOY it!?
Listen to your body and tune into your physical sensations instead of ignoring them. Our bodies are always communicating with us but we have so many external factors that interfere with this communication and distract us from listening to what’s really going on inside.
Whether you eat alone or with your family and friends, all you need is a nice space or setting. Light a candle, put on your favourite music, clear any clutter around you and set the tone so you are able to take in every element of your dining experience. When you start to get hungry, go and prepare something to eat, even if it’s a small snack, so that you are not starving when you come to eat and end up inhaling your food. Be sure to chew your food and eat slowly. When you are full, stop eating. Force feeding is just as bad as not eating at all.
To help with your digestion you can drink a small glass of water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before your meal to avoid glucose spikes and sugar cravings. It’s not for everyone so if you prefer something a little more tasty you can take any of the following supplement support from the Zooki range.
A sachet of Turmeric Zooki will help you digest your food. Alternatively, you could add Glutathione Zooki to strengthen your gut and microflora to treat any digestive difficulties, detoxify and improve insulin resistance.
Finally, you could add Collagen Zooki into your routine to help repair your gut lining, heal leaky gut and IBS and aid your digestion. All of these supplements are super simple to take, easy to travel with and taste like a treat!
Mastering mindful eating
Each and every time you start to think about a meal, you are setting an intention and becoming more and more conscious of your eating habits. From the moment you decide you are hungry, be mindful about what you will eat and how you will eat it. If it helps, you can prepare one or two days worth of food so you are not eating in a hurry or skipping meals. This will also stop you reaching for unhealthy snacks.
It’s okay to have a cheeky bar of chocolate every once in a while, but everything in moderation. The key is BALANCE. Get your fruit and vegetables in daily as well as healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein. Then when you do decide to give yourself a little treat you won’t feel bad, it won’t have a negative affect on your health and digestion and you will enjoy it without feeling guilty!
Eating mindfully is a daily practice, it isn’t something that happens over night but like most things it gets easier the more you do it. After some time, you will naturally end up being more mindful and aware of your food choices and become more present when you are eating.
Remember, eating is a full body experience: mental, physical and emotional. A homemade dish that is made by the hands of your mother or a fine dining meal at a restaurant will each bring out a different emotion and experience. So, the next time hunger strikes - STOP, FEEL, THINK and CHOOSE WISELY. Your body is a sacred home. Look after it, nourish it, honour it.