Mindful Eating: 3 Steps To Up-Level Your Food Experience
Do you sometimes find yourself scarfing food down, realizing after what feels like milliseconds that your food is gone? That’s called mindless eating. In this week’s post I talk about the opposite, more enjoyable choice: Mindful Eating.
Mindful eating is the practice of focusing your attention on the food you eat and the experience you have while doing it. It’s a Mindfulness practice (see my Mindfulness 101 post if you’re new to Mindfulness). Mindfulness involves paying more attention to your thoughts and senses. Mindful Eating involves paying more attention to your thoughts and senses while you eat. For me, it breaks down into 3 core components:
- Know what you’re eating
- Know why you’re eating
- Know how you’re eating.
Step 1: Know what you’re eating
It’s easy to dig into your food without taking a second to consider the food. Taking a second to actually consider the food before you eat makes a big difference. Stop, take a breath, and look at the food you’re about to crush. Take a second to either think or say out loud all the ingredients, and if you’re really feeling it you can even go into some of the components that went into getting the food there. So before you dig into your BLT you might think or say out loud:
“I’m grateful for this bacon, this lettuce, these tomatoes, this bread. Thank you to the pig that allowed this bacon to be here, to the farmers who farmed this lettuce, tomatoes, and wheat. I’m grateful for the rain that went into this and the earth from which it came!”
Now you know what you’re eating. Time for step 2.
Step 2: Know why you’re eating
Before you dig in, take a second to consider why you’re eating. Is it because it’s noon, and that’s the same time you eat at everyday? Is it because you’re stressed, and you simply want to turn your brain off for a few seconds (if you’re curious, this Harvard study explains how stress makes us crave food). Is it because you’re starving and your body is asking you for food? Being aware of why you’re eating is key.
Okay, now you’re ⅔ of the way to Mindful Eating.. Time for step 3.
Step 3: Know how you’re eating.
So you’ve done the prep and you’re ready for the meal. It’s go time baby! As you take that first bite, pay attention to what the food feels like as you put it in your mouth. Bring your focus to how the food feels in your mouth, as well as how it tastes, before you start chewing. Then, BOOM, go for it. Eat your food, chew it well, and pay attention to the whole experience. How does it feel to chew and swallow food? If you’re feeling it, you can put your sandwich or knife & fork down in between bites. If you’re really feeling it, try taking a mindful breath before each bite. You might just find it to be a different experience.
Congrats! You’ve done all the steps..easy right? This is probably something you can start doing without too much trouble, yeah?
The Reality of Mindful Eating
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Mindful Eating is a HUGE challenge for me. Matter of fact, I have a great example to share.
Right before I sat down to write this post I had an incredible $15 lunch from Panera (Side note: Panera, let’s gut check those prices, you’re breaking my bank!).
As I sat down to eat I started off with my normal practice of knowing what I was eating, expressing gratitude out loud for the food.
“I’m grateful for the lettuce, quinoa, bread, etc. etc.”. Okay, B+ on step 1.
Onto step 2. I didn’t directly think about why I was eating, but I knew I was hungry, and needed nourishment. I was eager to eat, as it had been 18 hours on the dot since my last meal as I’m currently practicing intermittent fasting (if you want to learn more about intermittent fasting, and why Terry Crews swears by it, check out this Business Insider video). Overall, I didn’t give too much thought or attention to step 2.. I’ll give myself a grade of C.
Onto Step 3. Not so pretty. I was excited about the blog post I was going to write today. I knew I was going to be writing about Mindful Eating, and I was trying to think about what I’d say.
Then my thoughts started racing. I started thinking about how fun it would be to start a podcast (stay tuned, that’s gonna happen soon!). I went down the rabbit hole, getting myself hyped on entrepreneurship.
I got so hyped that I called my friend and leadership coach Scott Bradley who inspired me to start being an entrepreneur in the first place. We were chatting, and I was crushing my food, full of adrenaline and excitement. Then, all of a sudden, I looked down and realized that 75% of my meal was gone, and I had been eating it completely mindlessly. Whoops…
“Hey Scott, I’m gonna let you go and get to this lunch. Be well brother, see you Monday”.
After taking some time to laugh at myself for the irony of the situation, I spent the last 25% of my meal slowing down and eating more mindfully. It was dope. Despite the rough start, mindfulness is all about catching yourself. You’ve gotta get pumped about the little wins. I’ll give myself a B on step 3, all thanks to the fourth quarter recovery.
Before you know it, if you start eating mindfully you might find that the benefits start to spread into other areas of your life. It’s what Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit (highly recommend that read), calls a keystone habit: a habit that causes other good habits. If you start eating more mindfully, you might notice that you start to eat less, eat healthier, lose weight, get more toned, etc. etc.. Did somebody say #Gains?
- When you eat without paying attention to the experience of eating, you miss out on the present moment experience. Rather than scarfing down a meal, use 3 simple steps to become more present while you eat.
- Step 1 — Know What You’re Eating: Say the names of the individual ingredients (either out loud or in your head) and reflect on the people that worked to get this food in front of you. Thanks Farmers!
- Step 2 — Know Why You’re Eating: Reflect on your reasoning for eating. Is it because you’re hungry? Is it because you’re stressed? Is it because you’re bored? Check into your body, and see what it’s asking for (i.e. can you actually feel hunger).
- Step 3 — Know How You’re Eating: As you eat, pay attention to the textures, smells, and tastes of the food that you’re eating. How does it feel to chew and swallow? Before each bite, take a pause to check in and catch your breath.
- REMEBER: We are human, and innately imperfect. Don’t get mad at yourself if you find yourself eating mindlessly. Rather, when you catch yourself eating mindlessly, pat yourself on the back for catching yourself, and bring your attention back to mindful eating. #Gains
Thanks for reading!
Originally published at www.chipgrossman.com on July 15, 2017.